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Peter's Mother-in-law a Deeper Meaning


I know some directees I journey with are not happy with this Gospel; they focus on the fact that this woman, who, as they angrily say, is so lowly that Mark does even name her!, is then up out of her sick bed and feeding those guys = and that is the polite word, and not at the deeper meaning.





There are two things here: 1.) It will be important to help these directees to move beyond their woundedness and sorrow of families that thought little of them and so taught them to think little of themselves.
2.) And to address the deeper issues of Peter's mother-in-law, which reflects into their own deeper issues.

Let's look at the reaction of those directees.  When someone is in the early stages of healing they often focus on those things that remind them of the injustice they were subject to.  For someone like that their vision of God becomes very tangled with their need for justice and their image of the perpetrator.  God maybe viewed as cruel, or a taskmaster, wanting constant retribution for the directees' sins; this is because they can not go back into the past and relive those experiences making better choices or living different lives, so they come to believe that God wants the burnt offerings of their reliving the past or not moving forward to a better future.  In Hosea 6:6 we are asked to have mercy, love of goodness or desire to know God when dealing with ourselves and others, and Matthew 12:7 says that if we knew mercy, love of goodness or knowledge of God than we would not condemn the innocent, the innocent being ourselves in terms of our past woundedness and harm.  Each time a directee can come to some form of forgiveness another layer is removed and the closer they come to being fully free of whatever it is that haunts them, they stop offering up burnt offerings.  Whatever happened will always be a part of them but it will hold no power over them anymore, that is when they will speak words of great mercy to themselves and others.

Now what is so interesting about the Gospel of Jesus healing Peter's Mother-in-law is not the fact the woman is unnamed or gets up to serve Jesus and the Apostles, but where the mother-in-law was living, with Peter.   Why would this be important?  During the time of Jesus, it was custom for first cousins to marry.  The new wife would move in with her husband's family, he of course, staying with his own family unit.  She was in essence a stranger, and women did not have any personal power; they were, for all purposes, property of their husbands.  When a woman became widowed she would go to live with one of her sons; and if they were dead she went back to her family.  So for Peter's mother-in-law to be living with him meant she had no family to go to, and therefore no power, no real right to be with Peter; he could have tossed her out onto the street if he had wanted.    The curing of the mother-in-law's "fever" was symbolic of Jesus' attitude toward women.   He taught that men and women were equal in the eyes of God, not something that was a prevailing Jewish attitude.  Jesus taught that women could and should have all privileges that men have socially, spiritually, morally.  Women were to be treated with respect and honor and just the apostle's mothers, all women.  To the Jews of Jesus' time they would have seen the healing of Peter's mother-in-law as almost blasphemous; women were not worthy of such things.  So the fever was the attitude of the time and her getting up to serve was not an act of a meek woman but a sign of respect to all.

2 comments:

  1. Perhaps her service was an outward sign of her thankfulness and gratitude. Actions often speak more than words can. How often do we say things out of propriety rather than the heart? As a child I often was made to give an apology or thanks that was not of the heart.
    Maybe Mark wasn't good with names...I'm not.

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  2. Thanks for the comment! I am so glad you stopped by. As for Mark I don't think the name was important to the message he was trying to convey. It's just that many of the moms I work with as a spiritual director found it very disturbing that she had no name. For them they felt nameless during their lives, just as it seems you may have, and when reading a Gospel with a woman that clearly could have been named makes my directees, that is someone who is journeying with a director, feel as if God sees them as nameless.

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