O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.
When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’
… she got up and began to serve him …
Today’s reading gives more testimony to Jesus’ power to heal. Yesterday we heard of the Jewish leper who was healed because of his faith; today we here of that same power of healing being extended to a Roman centurion who was pleading on behalf of his slave. As the Roman soldier showed compassion, so did Jesus. Jesus’ healing touch is a gift to all.
Then we come to one of those small moments in the gospel narrative, a moment that seems like a throwaway detail. Jesus went to Peter’s house, found his mother-in-law ill in bed and cured her. Then, later in the evening, he continued his ministry of healing. But, in the middle of this there are a few significant words: and she got up and began to serve him.
When we are unwell, so unwell that we have to take to our beds, we often feel the need for a period of convalescence, a time to regain our strength and energy. When that time has come to its natural end, then we feel able to rise from our sick beds and go about our normal daily work. This was not the case with Peter’s mother-in-law. She went from lying in bed with a fever to getting up and serving Jesus without a moment’s hesitation. Some may argue that the period of recovery should be taken as ‘understood’, a detail that Matthew did not feel the need to include. But, I believe there is more to this than we might imagine.
Jesus has been healing many people. He has been healing so many people that there would be neither room nor time to record all of the details in just one narrative. But, this healing was different because it was personal. Jesus was healing a close relative of one of his disciples. This detail gives the gospel writer the opportunity to show us just how complete and profound that healing was. Once Jesus had offered his healing touch everything was made well. Everything was made so well that there was no need for a period of self-indulgent ‘recovery’. Instead, as her strength was restored by this close experience of Jesus’ power, the only appropriate response was one of loving service to her Lord.
We so often wallow in our human condition. We feel sorrow for ourselves, sometimes long after God has answered our prayers and healed the hurts of our lives. Today’s reading, alongside yesterday’s, shows us that there is only one acceptable course of action. As Jesus shows his love for us and restores us to new life, so we should be ready to respond in a spirit of loving service.
Let us pray that we might set aside our human weakness and rejoice in the strength which comes from God alone. Let us pray that all may come to know the power of Jesus’ healing touch in their lives. Let us never fail to thank God for the strength he gives us to love and serve in his name.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray with confidence, trusting in the power of God.
Fill the Church with faith, that the words of healing may be spoken through her. Keep her ministers and leaders mindful of their responsibility to serve in humility for the sake of the gospel.
We pray that all who hold authority in the world shall know that they serve a higher power than their own, and exercise their rule with mercy. We pray for all in military service who seek to keep their faith in the midst of conflict.
Although we are unworthy that you should come under our roof, bless our homes with your presence. Give to us, to our families, friends and neighbours, the spirit of compassion for one another in times of need.
Bring healing to the sick in mind or body. Give skill to those who care for them, and comfort to those who sorrow for their pain. Have mercy on all who are close to death, and ease their passing.
We remember before you all who have left the pain and sickness of this world and are at rest. May they be made whole in the glory to God.
We offer our prayers in the name of Christ, by whose word our souls are healed.
Prayer for the week
Lord of all,
inspired by your word and your love,
your apostles preached the good news to all people.
Strengthen us to be apostles in our own lives,
that through the goodness of our actions,
the thoughtfulness of our faith
and the quality of our common life,
many might come to know the joy of life with you,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.