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We read in Lk 4: 38-39 :

After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.

Elsewhere, we see Jesus rebuking the evil spirit (Lk 9: 42). But it is doubtful if anyone who witnessed the healing believed that the fever of Simon's MiL had been caused by evil spirit. Even more doubtful is the existence of knowledge that it could have been caused by an animate thing say, virus . Even today, fever is more often than not, measured by the external symptom namely high temperature. Is it that Jesus rebuked the temperature which is an inanimate entity?

My question therefore is: According to Catholic scholars, what exactly did Jesus rebuke while healing the mother-in-law of Simon?

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    He rebuked the wind and the waves in Luke 8. Jan 17 at 14:25
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    Did not He, The Logos, without whom was not made anything that was made, not fully understand every possible aspect of medicine ? Of course He did.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 17 at 15:01
  • Father Simon, of the show "Father Simon Says" on Relevant Radio, handled this exact question recently. I don't remember the date, but it must have been the day that this Gospel was read at Mass. The podcast is available.
    – ken
    Jan 17 at 21:25

2 Answers 2

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What exactly did Jesus rebuke while healing the mother-in-law of Simon?

English translations vary and if you do not mind I would like to use another version than the one you used. Translation can make a big difference. Thus I will use the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA). After all it is a Catholic Catholic Bible.

38 And Jesus rising up out of the synagogue, went into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever, and they besought him for her.

39 And standing over her, he commanded the fever, and it left her. And immediately rising, she ministered to them. - Luke 4:38-39

Now it becomes abundantly clear that Jesus simply commanded the fever to leave Peter’s Mother-in-Law. It much more than a simply rebuke! The Divine Healer cured her!

I would simply like to add a few reflections of the Church Fathers on this passage.

Commentary from the Church Fathers

  • Glossa Ordinaria: And it is not enough that she is cured, but strength is given her besides, for she arose and ministered unto them.

  • Chrysostom: This, she arose and ministered unto them, shows at once the Lord's power, and the woman's feeling towards Christ.

  • Bede: Figuratively; Peter's house is the Law, or the circumcision, his mother-in-law the synagogue, which is as it were the mother of the Church committed to Peter. She is in a fever, that is, she is sick of zealous hate, and persecutes the Church. The Lord touches her hand, when He turns her carnal works to spiritual uses.[6]

  • Saint Remigius: Or by Peter's mother-in-law may be understood the Law, which according to the Apostle was made weak through the flesh, i. e. the carnal understanding. But when the Lord through the mystery of the Incarnation appeared visibly in the synagogue, and fulfilled the Law in action, and taught that it was to be understood spiritually; straightway it thus allied with the grace of the Gospel received such strength, that what had been the minister of death and punishment, became the minister of life and glory.

  • Rabanus Maurus: Or, every soul that struggles with fleshly lusts is sick of a fever, but touched with the hand of Divine mercy, it recovers health, and restrains the concupiscence of the flesh by the bridle of continence, and with those limbs with which it had served uncleanness, it now ministers to righteousness.

  • Hilary of Poitiers: Or; In Peter's wife's mother is shown the sickly condition of infidelity, to which freedom of will is near akin, being united by the bonds as it were of wedlock. By the Lord's entrance into Peter's house, that is into the body, unbelief is cured, which was before sick of the fever of sin, and ministers in duties of righteousness to the Saviour.

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    I am not sure your change of translation really addresses the linguistic question. "He commanded the fever" raises much the same issue of whether the fever was animate or not as "He rebuked the fever".
    – Henry
    Jan 17 at 16:30
  • @Henry I disagree. To command the fever to leave is far stronger wording than to simply rebuke (shame) the fever.
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 17 at 16:39
  • The original question was about in what sense the fever was rebukable, and your formulation raises the question about in what sense the fever was commendable.
    – Henry
    Jan 17 at 16:42
  • @Henry The OP is not using a Catholic Bible, which is, my point.
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 17 at 21:00
  • @KenGraham - The translation on the USCCB site has "rebuked."
    – ken
    Jan 17 at 21:17
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On September 1, 2021, Fr. Simon, on his show Father Simon Says on Relevant Radio, discussed this.

https://relevantradio.com/2021/09/father-simon-says-september-1-2021-orthodox-musings/

All right, let's go to the word of the day! [gong]

Very interestingly, Jesus goes from the synagogue to Simon Peter's house, and he stands over his mother-in-law, and rebuked the fever, and it left her.

He rebuked a fever? That's very interesting.

We see this in the scripture quite a bit. Moses was told to speak to the rock. Jesus rebukes a fever.

Well, the word of the day is rebuke.

The word in Greek is epitimaó. It can mean to honor. It means to measure out a due measure or to censure.

I remember I had a buddy who was very pentecostal and he believed that you rebuke illness, and he came up to me one day and said "Fr. Simon, you got an aspirin? I been rebuking this headache all day long." [sigh] He should have just come and got the aspirin in the first place.

This idea of rebuking a fever or speaking to a rock... Why do we do that? Because words do have power. What this really means is to esteem it suitably. It isn't just scaring the fever. It is speaking of the fever what the fever is. Jesus said "Fever, you've got no power around me."

We need to do that, occasionally. I never drive by an adult bookstore without rebuking Satan.

I think we need to get used to that, to speak to things -- it's biblical -- and to rebuke that thing when it's appropriate. "In Jesus's name, I rebuke this illness." That's something we don't do, but it's in the biblical bag of tricks. Try it some time.

I remember for years I drove by this store -- I think it was on Western Avenue in Chicago -- and I rebuked the store. Eventually it turned into a candy shop. [laughs] I don't know if my rebuking had anything to do with it, but, well...

We have a power in our faith that we never use. We have a power to bless, and we also have a power to curse. Use it wisely and sparingly. You don't curse people, but you can curse illness, you can curse sin, and you can tell the devil where to go. I'm not saying that when you're sick you're possessed, however, there is a continuum that relates, I think, all things that are evil, and we have this amazing right, and even duty, to rebuke things that are out of order.

Just a thought, who knows.

All right, let's go to phone calls.

That was weird...

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