Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – Year B

February 4 - 8

Gospel Lectionary Text

Mark 1:29-39

1:29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

1:30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.

1:31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

1:32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.

1:33 And the whole city was gathered around the door.

1:34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

1:35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

1:36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.

1:37 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you."

1:38 He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do."

1:39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.


Last week, Jesus garnered fame by casting out a demon in the synagogue. This week, we see more of the same. The crowds, and expectations, grow, and with them, the potential for great harm. Instead of capitalizing on the momentum, Jesus slows things down, concealing his identity and withdrawing from the crowd in order to pray. What gives?

Crowds unconsciously hold the collective spirit of those who inspire them, which is why Jesus approaches crowds with a blend of compassion and caution. In the Gospels, this spirit is predominantly shaped by a religious system steeped in sacrificial violence. Might Jesus, in casting out demons, actually be purging the very spirit of the religious system and the hidden violence it fosters within the crowd?

Exposing the triangular relationship between the religious system, crowds, and the demonic puts Jesus in harm’s way. That would explain why he orders demons and disciples alike to be quiet about his identity. When the time is right he’ll be crucified, revealing both the fruits of violent religion, and the mercy of the One who forgives us, including the crowds who cry “Hosanna” one day and “Crucify him” the next.


In today's tribalistic world, where do you find yourself swept up in the crowd's energy, seeking a scapegoat?


Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all that I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you Lord I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will. I ask only for your love and your grace. That is enough. See the complete prayer

Word from Below Reflections

Just As You Are

Jesus took time for prayer. This isn’t the only place we see that. There are more than thirty references to Jesus praying. Jesus prayed. He prayed like he needed to pray, like it was essential for him.  Which is fascinating. Why would Jesus need to pray? If prayer is connection with God, and he is…

Read More »

Gathering at the Door

In last week’s passage, we saw Jesus exorcising bad religion as he cast out the “impure spirit” of a man inside the synagogue. The reflection challenged the traditional reading of the text. What if the impure spirit didn’t so much reflect the possessed man? What if it was actually a reflection of the religious authorities?

Read More »

Don’t Tell

Anthropologist Rene Girard and theologian Walter Wink have written extensively on how crowds are highly unstable and volatile socio-spiritual realities. They are more than the sum of their parts. They are easily moved, especially towards violence. This is why at every turn throughout the Gospels Jesus refuses to be the puppet of the crowd’s desire,...

Read More »

Understanding the Bible anew through the Mimetic Theory of René Girard.

Weekly Homily by James Alison