Wednesday, January 14, 2009

backstory

As I was reading today's Gospel (last night), somehow the part about Simon's mother-in-law struck me. I had always taken the lady a bit for granted. She was in the house, sick, Jesus cured her, etc. Suddenly I found myself saying, "Now wait a minute: in that culture, the daughter (Simon's wife) would have left her family and been taken into Simon's paternal house. What was the wife's mother doing in Simon's home?" So I started imagining the backstory to today's Gospel. Was the mother-in-law just visiting and got sick? I prefer to imagine that she was a widow, and Simon's wife was her only child. In those days, such a woman would have been the most unfortunate member of society. With no sons, and her daughter married off to another family, she would have been utterly bereft. Her being in Simon's house would then be a measure of Simon's great-heartedness.
We never actually hear about Simon's wife in the Gospels; Paul will mention Cephas (Peter) as traveling throughout the Christian world with "a wife, a sister" as his companion, and later fictionalized accounts will also speak of a disabled young daughter, Petra. But the Gospels only show us Simon, and his brother Andrew--and his mother-in-law.

2 comments:

jun said...

hmmm.. you are right sister... Peter taking in the in-law speaks volumes about him. A nice bit to ponder on.

Fred said...

To imgine, the first pope who cares for his mother in law. What a world...I hope I can rememeber that bit next time this gospel comes up...I preached about about how simple Jesus' miracles, no fanfare, no histrionics...he speaks, people are healed, he touches the lame and they walk again, sometimes he merely looks at someone and their sins are forgiven. And yet, he is always awesome!
Father Fred, cmf