Summary: “Our fever is passion, our fever is lust, our fever is anger”
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
“Our fever is passion, our fever is lust, our fever is anger” (St. Ambrose, Expositio evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.).
St. Ambrose is talking about concupiscence, which is not sin but it’s what makes sin seem attractive (No. 2515).
An illustration for those who deny the reality of concupiscence:
A visitor was once being shown around an art gallery. The gallery contained some beautiful paintings which were universally acknowledged to be masterpieces. At the end of the tour the visitor said, "I don't think much of these old pictures." To which the guide replied, "My good man, these pictures are no longer on trial. But those who look at them are." The man's reaction was not a judgement on the pictures but on his own pitiful appreciation of art. In the same way those who prefer darkness to light have condemned themselves.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’
1.The remedy, the Catechism says is purity of heart: charity, chastity and love of truth (No. 2518) to view the world “according to God, to accept others as ‘neighbors’” (No. 2519).
Does that seem like a hard cure?
There is a cartoon of a doctor saying to a patient, “What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”’
e.g. Practical ways to mitigate concupiscence so it does not turn into sin--
Brushing off shame from my forehead and shoulders with flicks of my hand
Getting down on my knees faking that I need to tie one of my shoelaces
Sitting with my back to the crowd of people in a restaurant or any other public place
Turning my head away
2. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45.
Before the “Servant” phase, many of us are in the “hero” phase….
Hero- i.e. this is who I want to be and this is what my life is about. Mostly ego driven. However, spiritual and psychological progress is organic and can’t be forced. We grow though failures and disappointments--a pascal death
Servant—The movement from from an “I” to a “we”
Mystic- a broken human being whose brokenness is now the place of communion in Christ
3. Prayer gives us a daily reprieve from concupiscence turning into sin. Jesus shows us the cure. Our Gospel days, “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”
John Klimakos says concentrate when you pray: “For the demons fear concentration as thieves fear dogs.” [John Klimakos. The Ladder. 7.15. Boston. 1991. p. 72.]
The French mystic Simone Weil speaks of attention in our lives. She believes that absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.
Saint Bonaventure says, “we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it,…[From The Journey of the Mind to God, by Saint Bonaventure, bishop (Cap. 7, 22.214.171.124: Opera omnia 5, 312-313)].
4. Healing others--Jesus “grasped her hand, and helped her up.”
Mark employs the verb “raise up” which he uses also for the resurrection, being brought from death to life
She could not serve others when she had a fever. We are called to heal others.
In faith, others and ourselves will be healed and restored to service. Yes, it’s true, but there is always an X factor in healing, an unknown quantity that God does not chose to reveal.
Action items for us—
1. Formulate your techniques so concupiscence does not turn into sin
2. Pray daily with concentration to a get a daily reprieve from sin
3. Heal/Pray for others with attention: The French philosopher Simone Weil wrote in her classic Gravity and Grace that, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”