Mid-week Reflection (Luke 4:38-39) [2nd September 2020]
Unintentionally, when we read such a headline we remember politicians and their promises in election campaigns. It is true that, if we make a little effort and analyse what they promise, we will quickly understand that, in fact, these promises are just a way to buy our vote, our goodwill to choose them as leaders. Again, it is true that the more informed the population, the better it understands that such promises are difficult to fulfil or some even impossible. That is why such a population is harder to buy with promises. Such a population will choose someone with more realistic promises. I stop here with politics because I don’t want to steal the bread of sociologists or political scientists.
I made this introduction because there is a parallel between what politicians do during the election period and what we do in our daily lives or especially when we are in trouble. And we know how many promises we can make, just to get what we ask for. And we do this not only when we pray to God, but also in our relationships. We promise the sea with the salt and the moon in the sky only to reach our goal. This is what we do when we make decisions to change our lives. We want to do heroic things, but when we start we realize that it is something more difficult and most of the time we fail.
The text we took as the basis of our reflection is a very short one. This is chapter 4, verses 38 and 39 of the Gospel according to Luke. The shorter the text, the more useful it is in helping us learn how to live. It is about Jesus who is visiting Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law is ill.
To better understand the situation, we must consider what was the role of the oldest woman in the house. She is like a queen. Nothing moves without her consent. She is the one who decides how to treat the guests. It is her duty of honour. The other women just help her. In traditional families in India and even in the Middle East, where more generations live in the same house, the mother-in-law still occupies this place of honour. Simon’s mother-in-law had the same place of honour and responsibility.
In her house came Jesus, the teacher her son-in-law was following. He is an important guest. It is her duty to take care of him as best she can. But she was ill when Jesus came. What is important in the story of the gospel is what Simon’s mother-in-law did once she was healed: “she got up and began to serve them”.
We could say that she did nothing extraordinary to show special gratitude to Jesus. And yet she does the most important thing she had to do: to fulfil her role as mistress of the house, as a good host. We have nothing in the text to tell us that she made extraordinary promises for the gift she received. But one thing is clear: she has returned to do her duty as best she can.
Apparently, there is nothing great in this. But the all great things, all stories about great people and nations have their roots in the same reality: doing duty with a sense of reality and responsibility, on time.
In the text we have no words to lead us to the idea of promise. It’s just a desire: to be able to do the duty. It is the same thing in our lives. Promises are useless if they have nothing in common with the awareness that we must do our duty. And we are called to do it in any situation. What we have to ask for is to be given the opportunity to do it, to understand what we have to do. In this situation, our decisions, our promises will not be without realism. But it is important to start now, because otherwise there is a danger of forgetting and promising and making decisions indefinitely without fulfilling them. Simon’s mother-in-law “got up and began to serve them”. Not another time, but right then. Decisions and promises begin to be fulfilled now, not tomorrow, not sometime.
(Revd. Bernard Noghiu, Prittlewell – 2nd August 2020)