This Gospel passage is one of very few references made to the human background of any of the apostles.
St Mark makes a point of describing how Christ walked across the room, took Peter’s ailing mother-in-law by the hand, and helped her out of bed. He even adds that she immediately went back to work, waiting on her guests.
Towards the end of today’s reading, Mark relates how in his casting out of the demons, Christ ordered them to be silent, because they knew who he was. Christ is often presented as making a point of keeping secret his mission as the messiah.
Mark especially makes the point that a lot of preparation would have to be done before the people would be ready, or even capable of accepting the reality of the Kingdom of Christ.
There would have to be a tremendous outpouring of human concern by Christ and his followers, an open acceptance of the unredeemed human condition, with all of its failings and shortcomings and suffering, whatever needs to be done, to ease that suffering, to make up for those shortcomings.
When people began to see that such real love actually happened in the lives of real people, then they might be ready to listen to the Sermon on the Mount. They might even be ready to look up at the Crucifixion, and see there the most divine act of all: human suffering truly made God’s own concern, and so human suffering made purposeful, bearable by human beings.
This is really the point of all the healing stories. It was not a matter of proving the divinity, or the power of Christ. Rather they were a matter of one person doing whatever was in his power to ease the suffering of another human being.
The first reading today is a passage from the book of Job, certainly one of Scripture’s clearest images of a man for whom human living had become a burden almost beyond bearing.
Job finally does make his peace with his hardship, as we all must, by opening himself to the fact that every aspect of life, good and bad, ultimately belongs to God, and not to us.
That life can never be understood, it can merely be lived. Just that simple insight – our lives are God’s, not our own – is the message for which Mark in his Gospel so strongly felt the need for preparation, acts of caring for one another.
So, for us, too, today in the throes of a pandemic, that is causing so much suffering, Christ continues to proclaim himself as the messiah, and that preparation must still be done. No one will believe that our lives are shaped by a gracious and loving God if we do not give them the chance to experience for themselves, by what we do, that grace, and that love.