Commentary on the Gospel of
“In the room where it happens…” *
This reading always catches me off guard. “mother-in-law”. In the gospels we hear of brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, even a cousin. This, I think, is the only mention of a “mother-in-law” in the gospels.
Ignatius invites us to contemplate scripture. To pray using our imaginations and senses. To enter into the scene for the purpose of opening up to the intimacy of Jesus. Jesus wants us to experience him lovingly and intimately.
Prayerfully, even playfully, entering this scene in Simon’s home I experience Jesus in a new and delightful way. Where there’s a mother-in-law, presumably there is a wife and most probably children. This is a family. I watch from a distance as Jesus enters the room where Simon’s mother-in-law is lying on a thin pallet on the earthen floor. There is a pottery jug with water and damp cloths nearby. She opens her feverish eyes and her face floods with joy at seeing her son-in-law, Simon. Her gaze shifts to Jesus. “Oh, you have come as well! I am so pleased to see you”. Jesus kneels down beside her, gently taking her weak hand in his strong ones. Whispering, he encourages her to get up. Cautiously, gently he holds her hand and supports her as she stands. Smiling all the while, she stands strong, she hugs Jesus and welcomes him into their home. Almost unnoticed, she slips away to join her daughter who is preparing a meal, a pilaf. The sweet smells of anise, cinnamon & cumin begin to permeate the air. The house is small and the breeze flows softly.
Giggles, laughter, and the sound of running, and playful shouts precede the entrance of a rush of children – like spring lambs scampering to their shepherd. “Uncle Jesus”, “Uncle Jesus” they shriek as they run, grabbing him around his legs. Uncle Jesus leans over them, squatting down attentive to their jabber. Each child seems to have Jesus’ full attention as they rattle off what they have been doing, their accomplishments and mishaps. They don’t need to tell Jesus of their joy at his being with them. It is written all over them. Things settle down, the children go back outside and Jesus very much at home goes off to help with meal preparation. I can hear the flow of wine into cups. I move to the doorway and notice that there is a fifth cup of wine poured. I somehow know it is meant for me. Tentatively, I venture forward. Jesus picks up the cup, warmly gazing into my eyes, he offers me the cup. I take it.
Reflecting on my prayer, I begin to realize that I was the ill mother-in-law. Jesus gently took my hand, whispered, assisted me to stand and to resume serving. I was one of those raucous children. As Jesus knelt to scoop them lovingly in his strong arms and in a rough and tumble nature that children love held them close. Held me close. They playfully struggled to get loose, I too was struggling, but Jesus held us firmly in his arms. In their exhaustion the children eventually crumpled at his knees. I was one of those children who Uncle Jesus loved, played with, listened to and nurtured. I too crumpled at Jesus’ knees. I was there in “the room where it happens”.
In my prayer I experienced Jesus in a delightfully new way. Uncle Jesus! Imagine that. Jesus was a very special man in this family’s daily life. Jesus wants to be a very special part of our daily lives.
For me, it gives new meaning to the Eucharistic prayer: “Do this in memory of me”: Invite Me in. Welcome Me in. Into your daily life.
I want to be with Jesus in the “room where it happens”.