Jesus Rebukes a Fever
Homily for Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
In yesterday’s Gospel passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, we read how Jesus rebuked a demon. Today we read another passage which uses the very same word: “He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.” This is followed by St. Luke’s telling us that, as a result of Jesus’s intervention with the man in the synagogue and with Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, “All who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him.”
When we hear of demons, we immediately think that that these people are possessed by the devil. However, we are interpreting these passages from the perspective of people who have grown up in the Western world. The people of the Middle East thought of this in a completely different way. Fevers, headaches, stomach aches, etc. were all thought of as the product of evil spirits. The people of this culture thought of the world as being at the mercy of both good and evil spirits. What we now consider the product of infections, various diseases including epilepsy, and all manner of psychological disabilities, the people of the Middle East attributed to demons. When Jesus lays hands on these people and cures or heals them, we would do well to consider these episodes in the light of Middle Eastern culture. Even today, the people of the Middle East still think like this. The Gospels are filled with this kind of thinking.
Throughout the Gospels Jesus encounters various illnesses and disabilities. These unfortunate people are oftentimes cut off from normal, everyday social interaction because of something that Jewish people call ritual impurity. Jesus heals not only the illness or disability but also makes it possible for these people to once again be in social gatherings. This is very evident in today’s Gospel passage as Peter’s mother-in-law immediately gets up and busies herself by serving Peter and his guests.
Once again, the Gospel urges us to be healers where there is injury, illness, or disability. Even though we may not have the power to cure illnesses, we do have the power and the authority to heal people’s relationships through our own charity, mercy, and kindness. In this way we continue the ministry of Jesus in our world today.