Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Saint Peter's Mother In Law

This is my 100th post!

Today, I finally get to explain
why Saint Peter's Mother In Law
is one of the principal patronesses of this blog.

Today, Holy Mother Church places her story
before us for the second time this summer.

Last time, Matthew told it. 

This time, Luke is our witness.

God laid the groundwork
for my devotion to this holy woman throughout my life,
but I did not begin to realize this until June 25, 2011.

My three-week visit to the convent was nearly over.

That morning, during my spiritual reading time before Holy Mass,
I read Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis' commentary
on Matthew 8:14-15, part of the Gospel for the day.

I was amazed at how Leiva-Merikakis took two seemingly simple verses
(that I would have skimmed over so quickly and thoughtlessly without his help)
and expounded on them so beautifully for three pages,
just a few hundred words that changed my life
just a little.

The pericope of the healing of Saint Peter's Mother in Law
came alive for me that day,
and I realized that her story is my story too.

In school as a student of Theology,
I was taught that the references to Saint Peter's Mother in Law in Matthew, Mark, and Luke
can be used to prove that Saint Peter was married,
so that can be used as an argument for married clergy.

"Peter, the first Pope, was married, so why can't priests marry today?"

I'm not going to argue against this idea in any length here,
though I believe that Peter was probably a widower by the time he became Pope,
and possibly before he even met Jesus.
But all this is speculation and beside the point,
and I am sorry that it used to distract me from what the texts actually say.

But to get back to Leiva-Merikakis' reflection on the healing of Peter's Mother in Law...
it is absolutely beautiful.

Here are just a few lines:

"The text [of Matthew] literally says, 'He saw her...and he touched her hand...and she was raised up and she began to serve him.' These four particular verbs in this particular sequence offer us a magnificent summary of the whole Christian life." (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word I, p. 341)

So I rejoice this day, as Holy Mother Church picked Luke's account of the same story for part of today's Gospel:

Luke 4:38-39

"After he [Jesus] left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon's mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them."

Same story, different angles...

Jesus' authority to heal by simply speaking words is emphasized here,  in Luke's Gospel,
and it is interesting to note that He had just amazed the people by curing a demoniac by His Word.
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus cures Peter's mother-in-law by touching her; here His Word suffices.

Of the three accounts, Luke's is the only one where Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law
before He calls Peter to follow Him.
I am not quite sure what to make of this, but it is definitely something to think about.

Luke and Mark both mention that others interceded for Peter's mother-in-law with Jesus,
while Matthew tells us that Jesus simply saw her lying there
and decided to heal her without being explicitly asked by anyone.
In this regard, I am torn, because I like both versions of the story.
I like the idea of intercessory prayer,
which is a huge part of my vocation and part of the inspiration behind the title of this blog.
However, I also believe that God's mercy needs no invitation,
that His healing graces are freely offered whether we ask for them or not.
So, I'm going to keep thinking about this, too.

By the way, since this post is way too long already,
I'm just about done here.
If you've made it this far, you deserve a treat!
escape by clicking this second picture...
it will take you to a beautiful reflection
by Saint Francis de Sales
on the healing of Saint Peter's Mother-in-Law.
(I believe he is working from Mark's account.)

+   +   +

Saint Peter's Mother-in-Law,
pray for us!
Help us to recognize the ways in which 
we have been healed by God's mercy and grace,
and to serve our Lord in love
all the days of our lives
as you did.
We ask this through Christ our Lord, 

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