Sunday, February 4, 2018

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jb 7:1-4,6-7
Mk 1:29-39

So, Jesus healed Simon's mother-in-law. "Then the fever left her and she got up to serve."  One can hear the self-styled internet-trained medical and theological experts decrying the miracle with: big deal, it was just a fever, it was probably just a cold. 

Fever does not necessarily mean the same thing today that it did in the Ancient Near East where a febrile illness was seen as the stepping stone to death. Today we interpret a fever according to how high it is and the context in which it occurs. Chemotherapy patient with a temp of 103?  Serious.  Temp of 105 in a one year-old?  Call 911.  High school student with sniffles and a temp of 99.8?  Take some aspirin or Tylenol. "You can stay home from school but no gaming."  Context is everything.

We need not go back too far in time to see when fever was very much feared in the U.S. Think back to the great black and white movie Westerns starring John Wayne or Gary Cooper.  Those guys could handle all kinds of outlaws without breaking into a sweat.  But fever after childbirth?  That was terror.  They were quaking in them thar boots.  So there they were at night, the menfolk in the front room.  Lookin' worried.  And smokin'.  And gittin' on each other's nerves.  John or Gary had to put one of them guys in his place.  And then he put a consoling arm around Little Joe's shoulder.

Cut to the bedroom. 

Sweet Amanda, newly delivered of Little Joe's son, is writhing in the delirium of puerperal fever.  It's lookin' bad.  The womenfolk are exchangin' silent glances.

Cut away to sunrise. 

Barbara Stanwyck or Patricia Neal, totally in charge, comes out looking haggard but restrainedly buoyant. Rolling down her sleeves and brushing that stray wisp of hair, she announces that the fever has broken.  Amanda is going to be fine.  Little Joe breaks down in tears.  Shots of whiskey all around for the menfolk.  Fade to gunfight scene . . .

The understanding of fever has changed since the antibiotic era.  The meaning of Jesus' miracles will never change.  It will only deepen.  This is the second of Jesus' healings in Mark's Gospel.  It is followed by multiple others in which, "he cured many . . . with various diseases, and drove out many demons."  Then we heard, "Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, 'Everyone is looking for you.'"

Dostoyevsky explained "everyone is looking for you" in The Brothers Karamazov.  "Man seeks not so much God as the miraculous."  After forty plus years as a physician I can't argue with Dostoyevsky. Everyone is familiar with the saying "there are no atheists in foxholes."  It is equally true that there ain't no atheists in an ICU. Physicians included. 

The Church cannot exist without Jesus' miracles any more than it can exist without his teaching.  They are warp and woof of the same cloth.  Sign and word.  Teaching and deed. We will hear the narratives of a number of healing miracles in the coming weeks.  And we may witness miracles in our lives or the lives of those we love.  Or maybe not.

The language and meaning of miracle may be unintelligible to the proud, the non-religious, the atheist, or scientific pseudo-sophisticates.  But the language, the meaning, and the fact of miracles remains loud and clear to those who are willing to look and listen in faith.

The reading from Job reflects today.  Job is a familiar figure, indeed, he is a figure of speech. He was woefully misunderstood by those who confronted him in scripture.  He remains woefully misunderstood today by those who read his story, particularly in the sense that he was not patient.

Job is us.  He is the patient.  Job is the patient who wakens with teeth-chattering chills while undergoing chemotherapy.  He is the patient who is roused in the middle of the night with crushing pressure in the chest. "Oh God, why?"  Each of us can describe a scenario of illness accompanied by feelings of anger, hopelessness, fear, and the question,  'What did I do to deserve this?"

In Chapter two, we read the oh-so-modern reaction of Job's wife.  “Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die!” Job replied, "You speak as foolish women do. We accept good things from God; should we not accept evil?” Through all this, Job did not sin in what he said."

It is more likely that today Job's wife would suggest ending his suffering through the compassionate application of "Physician-guided death" the risible new euphemism for putting the ill and elderly down,the new non-threatening term for what was formerly called 'euthanasia' or 'physician-assisted suicide." It all boils down to killing. With the pending "assisted death" legislation in Massachusetts "Curse God and Die" may become the new state motto.

A few years ago I spent two months studying French in Lyon, France.  I'd originally planned on going to Paris but a friend suggest Lyon.  It was a superb suggestion.  I've been to Paris.  Big city.  Nice.  But I fail to swoon at the mention or thought of Paris.  Lyon is magnificent and then some.  It is an ancient city that was founded before the birth of Christ.  Every Saturday AM and some Sundays I woke early and wandered with the camera.  

A gigantic flower sculpture.   Still not sure what I think of it.  It is certainly impossible to miss.

The entrance to the Jesuit community.  This particularly community is in what was once a monastery if Visitation Nuns (there were two in the city).  It is the monastery in which St. Francis de Sales died.  The community is located almost on the corner of Rue Sala and Rue François de Sales.  Francis and St. Jane de Chantal are the founders of the Visitandines.  I was told that my room in the community was the room closest to where Francis died.  

Part of the cloister garth in the community.  This kind of architecture is not characteristic of Jesuit community life. 

The Cathedral in Lyon.  The options for church photography in Lyon approach inexhaustible.  Unfortunately, the main altar was obscured the massive photo during some needed construction/repair.

One can understand the architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans after visiting France. 

Lots of markets display their wares outdoors.

Another black and white architecture shot.  Stucco photographs a lot better than glass and aluminum.

An afternoon beer or two. 

Lyon is dotted with outdoor cafes.

Every time I see this shot I yearn to go out on a date just to eat here.  It is an outdoor cafe attached to a larger restaurant.  Totally romantic. 

Bouchons Lyonnaise, the characteristic candy.  The dark chocolate ones with the hand-writen sign on them are wicked expensive.  It would be 35 euros (close to $40 for a half pound).  The others are more reasonable 

All day suckers to be sure. 

Loved the façade of this building.  I may have spent about 40 minutes shooting it.  

 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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