I love the Gospel story of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, who was “very sick with a high fever,” St. Luke tells us. After Jesus came “close to her and ordered the sickness to go away, the sickness left her, and she got up and began serving them” (Lk 4:38-40). In my younger years, I found it odd that the first thing the cured woman did was get up and start serving. I thought to myself, “Maybe she could have taken a shower first?” But I have grown to love what this one line tells us about Peter’s mother-in-law—and his wife for that matter. They were both open to Jesus turning their lives upside down. Jesus called Peter away from his family, after all. That might have left some wives and mother-in-laws bitter. Not these two. They must have known who Jesus was and how important his call to Peter was. This mother-in-law accepted God’s call for Peter, her daughter, and herself. We can see this from how she went from being on her death bed to serving dinner to at least 13 men in the blink of an eye. She was wholehearted about being open to God’s will.
This story reminds me that obedience to the will of God is often just accepting the situations in which I find myself and seeking to serve in my unique role. St. Luke goes on to say that many more people were brought to Jesus and healed that day. Peter’s mother-in-law allowed others to experience Jesus by believing in him herself and by serving him with her all. When I trust the Lord enough to allow him to do with me as he wills, and I work with him to the best of my ability, miracles can happen!
I love that this story also reminds me that being able to serve is a blessing. I need this reminder as I face my daily to-do list. When Peter’s mother-in-law returned to the land of the living, she happily got right back to her life of service. What an honor it would have been to make dinner for Jesus! We actually have this same honor every day when we serve “the least of these” in our own families. As wives and mothers, we are privileged to do the Corporal Works of Mercy on an hourly basis. Each time we do the menial housework, the errand-running and chauffeuring, the toilet cleaning and butt wiping, we are building up the kingdom. It is a gift to be healthy enough to be able to meet the needs of those we love.
While society highlights making money as the be-all and end-all of life, St. Luke reminds us of our elevated state of life through the example of the healed mother-in-law. She shows us that to serve others out of the generosity of our hearts right where God has planted us is our highest calling and worthy of all our striving.