The lake and e the city of Jesus
The area surrounding the Sea of Galilee can be considered today to represent a unique sanctuary, for this is the land where Jesus lived and where his nature of God and man was completely manifested. It has been said that wherever Jesus placed his foot, there a sanctuary was created.
The beauty of the area, with its thriving vegetation and “paradisiacal” atmosphere, offers the pilgrim the possibility to enter fully into the story of Jesus’ life, for this is where Jesus’ self-revelation occurred and where he dedicated himself to being a teacher, a worker of miracles and an exorcist.
Jesus passed through these places so many times, walked in these very sites, performed miracles here, and was repeatedly reflected in the waters of the lake. His voice reverberated among the inlets along the shores of the lake, proclaiming the Word of God, and it almost seems as if it has been etched into this marvelous countryside. It is remarkable how here one can recognize the slow pace of our Lord’s daily life, in his daily activities, in his experience of God made man. But it is equally extraordinary how here he was manifested in all his divinity, how here he gave us his example of Charity, Truth, Life and Way and at the same time manifested his power through miracles and healings. This is why we can affirm that this is the Lake of Jesus, bearing witness to his divinity and his saving action.
“A Cafarnao la casa del principe degli apostoli è stata trasformata in chiesa: le sue pareti restano ancora oggi come erano una volta. Là il Signore guarì il paralitico. Là c’è anche la sinagoga in cui il Signore sanò l’indemoniato.”
Pietro Dacono (sec. XII) testo attribuito a Egeria (sec. IV).
Capernaum, together with the whole lake, is a particular place of grace. It is the Galilean village most frequently visited and served by Jesus. Here Jesus selected his disciples and called them to him one by one, making them witness to his own greatness through his life and his works. Here Jesus announced the Holy Eucharist with his discourse in the synagogue on the Bread of Life.
Jesus lived here his daily life; here is where he took the decision to reside in the house of his disciple Peter, where he met his apostles, where he was sought by all those who wanted to receive his grace and healing from his own hands. Peter’s house became a new meeting point, the center of a new community that was established around him, after the rejection he had twice received in the synagogue.
Jesus always returned to Capernaum after his voyages in Galilee, a sign of how much he loved living in this city and making it the center of his mission.
Those who come from all parts of the world to visit this holy place, and do so with courage and humility, receive a gift of joy and serenity, immersing themselves in a natural environment of great beauty.
In the spirit of the pilgrims the miracle can be renewed, as if they were there in person among the multitude who followed him and listened to him.
The Bread of Life
Gospel of St. John (John 6: 24-59)
"When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"
Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, 15 which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal."
So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."
So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? ur ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
But I told you that although you have seen (me), you do not believe.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day.
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day."
The Jews murmured about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven," and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Stop murmuring 18 among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats 19 my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum."
BIBBIA CEI 2008
The food that perishes and that which gives eternal life
In the synagogue in Capernaum Jesus identified the faith in him, who had been sent by the Father, as the work that God wanted from all men. But the Galilean crowd thought his miracles were insufficient to justify such a faith. They demanded a miracle at least equal to that of the manna that Moses had caused to fall from heaven.
No, Jesus corrected them. It was not Moses but God who sent the Israelites the manna they ate. And it was also God who presented his envoy to all men in order to satisfy their aspirations for eternal life. And Jesus is the true bread of life. And Jesus is the true bread of life. And he who does not believe in him is guilty because, in the Messianic Era, to believe it sufficed to be attracted by the grace of God.
Then came the reference to the Eucharist, to his flesh that will be offered in sacrifice for humanity. He who receives this true sustenance will receive eternal life from the one whom the Father has established to be the giver of life.
Many of the disciples found this discourse to be mysterious and difficult to accept. However, the Cross and the consequent glorification of the Crucified One was to show that the Eucharist, in the same manner as the prophetic words of the Spirit, is truly able to give life.
Not a few of his disciples, the Evangelist tells us, abandoned Jesus. But Peter, in the name of the Apostles, reaffirmed his belief in him as the Messiah whom God had sent and consecrated and whose words transmitted eternal life to whoever accepted them.
(M. Adinolfi – G. B. Buzzone, Viaggio del cuore in Terra Santa, Casale Monferrato 2000, pp. 56-57)
“Jesus Christ Our Lord, who with his ineffable love gave himself for us.” (Thomas of Celano, First Life of St. Francis of Assisi, Chapter XXX, [FF86])
In the Church, as in Franciscan spirituality, the mystery of the incarnation of Christ and of the gift of his body and blood in the Eucharist is both the center and culmination of the celebration of the Love of the Father for his children. This proclamation made by Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum reveals everything about his mysterious gift to men, but the consequences of these words led many of his followers to turn away. Jesus had not been understood by everyone, indeed by some was considered a fool. What the people were seeking were his miracles and healings, rather than the freshness and profundity of the message he had come to announce to all people: a message that required a more radical response and that announced his all-encompassing love for humanity, and one that was based neither on miracles nor on a God revealed through power and force.
Jesus’ Eucharistic discourse in the synagogue in Capernaum proclaimed to those who followed him, the day after the multiplication of loaves and fish, what the nature of the true bread was that did not perish. Jesus’ proclamation that only those who ate his flesh and drank his blood will have eternal life represented a difficult test of faith for his disciples. Faith was required from the disciples that time and every time. When each of us faces the consecrated bread and wine it is necessary to have the gift of faith for welcoming Christ, and in him is eternal life.
The Franciscan devotion to Jesus, the Word of God made man, and to the places sanctified by his passage produced a style of prayer that arose from the desire to conform to the image of the poor and crucified Christ. The celebration of the events of Jesus’ life materializes in the Holy Eucharist. The celebration of the votive mass of the Holy Eucharist in Capernaum represents a concrete proof of the devotion of the sons of Francis to Jesus, present in his body and blood. In the Holy Land there in fact exists a very close relationship between history and archaeology, between devotion and liturgy, so strong as to be capable of serving as the foundation stones of the spiritual tradition.
It was the first century Christians who identified the Holy Places, those places in the Middle East that had had the honor of welcoming the passage of the only-begotten Son of God, of his Holy Mother, of the Apostles, and of witnessing the events of the Old Testament. The Holy Places are the witnesses that speak in a concrete manner of the historic events that proclaimed the Word of God. Beginning in the fourth century AD, large basilicas arose throughout the Christian world at the sites of the tombs of the martyrs. In the Holy Land, it is geography that testifies to the presence of Christ: the churches of the Holy Land, the Martyria, are thus reliquaries for preserving not bones, but rather those portions of the Earth that bore the imprint of the passage of the God made man.
The constant celebration throughout the centuries in all of the Holy Places of the mysteries of Christ has produced both written and handed down practices of prayer and veneration in these Holy Places that have come to represent a liturgical and devotional heritage. This has not occurred, however, in respect to Peter’s house and the synagogue in Capernaum since, as a result of the degraded condition of the village of Capernaum, there was no continuing tradition of worship at the site. Following the arrival of the friars to the Holy Land in the 13th century, the first seeds of a rediscovered and recovered tradition were planted, as they began to go to this Holy Place in order to venerate the house of the Apostle Peter and the synagogue. The first celebrations in the ruins of Capernaum, attested to in the 15th century, took the simple form of the prayer Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory for gaining an indulgence. Later, in the 17th century, the reading of the Gospel (John 6:24-59) was added. After the sanctuary of Capernaum was acquired in 1890, the friars began to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the synagogue. Today, two solemn events are celebrated: the feast of the Holy Eucharist and that of St. Peter the Apostle. In addition, two pilgrimages are carried out, one during the Octave of Pentecost and the other during the Octave of Corpus Christi.
It is lovely to recall how, in the collect prayer dedicated to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Capernaum, the Church calls on the faithful to be worthy of participating in the Bread of Life, calls on them to have the faith to welcome the gift of the Body of Christ, calls for hope in eternal life, calls for the charity to conform themselves to Christ in their individual donations to the friars. In the prayers, God is acknowledged to be the source of all good, and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to be the greatest gift for man. Participation in the Bread of Life is also requested of God so that it may be a source of life for others. Participation in love must build brotherhood among men. The prayers stress that the force to implement this charity represented by brotherhood must have its source in the word of eternal life and in the communion with the Body and Blood of Christ.
Gesù si manifesta a Cafarnao attraverso la sua predicazione, ma anche attraverso i suoi miracoli e le sue guarigioni. Gesù non vuole manifestarsi con le sue opere di guarigioni, non vuole farsi pubblicità, ma i miracoli che lui compie lo rendono popolarissimo, in questo modo si avvicinerà a lui una grande folla che chiederà a lui la Grazia. Inoltre nei miracoli è possibile rilevare l’importanza della missione di Gesù, “Egli prese su di se le nostre infermità” (Is 53, 4), cioè che Gesù si fa servitore esprimendo concretamente l’amore, principio e fine dell’attività di Gesù. Tra i miracoli più emblematici ricorderemo quello della Suocera di Pietro, quello del Paralitico, del servo del centurione, dell’emorroissa e della figlia di Giairo.
Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 8: 1-13)
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean."
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I will do it. Be made Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully."
He said to him, "I will come and cure him."
The centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
And Jesus said to the centurion, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you." And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.
Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 7:1-10)
When he had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, "He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us."
And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 8: 14-17)
Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him.
When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: "He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases."
Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 1: 29-31)
On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 4: 38-39)
After he left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. 16 Simon's mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.
Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 9: 1-8)
He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Courage, child, your sins are forgiven."
At that, some of the scribes 2 said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming."
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."
He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.
Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 2: 1-12)
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven. "Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'?
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" - he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home."
He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 5: 17-26)
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set (him) in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles 7 into the middle in front of Jesus.
When he saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven."
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?"
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts?Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'' - he said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."
Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 9: 18-19)
While he was saying these things to them, an official 14 came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."
Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.
Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 5: 35-43)
While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid; just have faith."
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep."
And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!"
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. (At that) they were utterly astounded.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 8: 49-56)
While he was still speaking, someone from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer."
On hearing this, Jesus answered him, "Do not be afraid; just have faith and she will be saved."
When he arrived at the house he allowed no one to enter with him except Peter and John and James, and the child's father and mother.
All were weeping and mourning for her, when he said, "Do not weep any longer, for she is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed him, because they knew that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called to her, "Child, arise!"
Her breath returned and she immediately arose. He then directed that she should be given something to eat.
Her parents were astounded, and he instructed them to tell no one what had happened.
Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 9: 20-22)
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured.
Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 5: 25-34)
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to him, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 8: 40-48)
When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And a man named Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came forward. He fell at the feet of Jesus and begged him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter, 14 about twelve years old, and she was dying. As he went, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, 15 who (had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and) was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped.
Jesus then asked, "Who touched me?" While all were denying it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you." But Jesus said, "Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me."
When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately.
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace."
The first action carried out by Jesus in his public ministry was a “vocation”: the calling of the first two disciples. Jesus called them by their name, he called on them to follow in his way, asking them to leave behind everything they had for the news that was to be proclaimed and the mission in which they would participate. In the first place this call required a conversion, in other words a turning of one’s own self towards Jesus and following him with the wish to conform oneself to his person. The vocation already contained a first revelation, in the name of each one of them, and Jesus gave the name Peter to Simon because his mission and his call would be that of being the rock on which the Church of Christ would be founded. The Apostles were then called one by one by their name, so that they could be identified in their uniqueness.
The first experience of one who receives the call is a strong and intimate relation with God; only this type of relation could allow the disciples, who felt loved, to choose to follow Jesus absolutely. The promise that Jesus made to Peter and Andrew was a very major one and required a complete renunciation and faith on their part. They had to leave behind their own habits and their own views, in order to receive life as a gift from God in its entirety, in order to receive the call as a new road to follow leaving aside their own personal projects. One can speak of two types of calls: one that required faith from the disciples, and another that called them to perfection, to follow unconditionally in the way of the Teacher.
The disciples encountered Jesus while they were carrying out their daily lives. It was in this context that Jesus turned to Peter and Andrew, calling on them to follow him while they were working, while they were busy in their daily lives.
Similarly, the language Jesus used with his disciples was typical of that which they used in their daily lives. He turned to them saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” From that moment, what had been a simple fisherman’s life on the Sea of Galilee became a new vocation, a mission to proclaim the Love of God, and they left behind their nets, their boats and their families in order to follow Jesus.
In addition, we should take note of the fact that those called came as a pair, two brothers were called: Peter and Andrew. This was because the basis of brotherhood is the relationship between two people, and the vocation was to be fulfilled within community life. The mission, to which they would be sent, could be carried out completely only if they shared and experienced the life of the community. And here we can see a new passage: the called disciples are sent to bring the proclamation of the Gospel and Jesus’ love for all mankind. The mission is the expression and natural result of feeling loved and called by the Lord. As has already been said, the vocation and the mission were community ones, because the community was both the point of departure and arrival for each one; indeed, it was only through their relationship with their brothers that the disciples were able to experience sonship, inasmuch as it is not possible to see yourself as a child unless you also discover yourself to be a brother. It was in this context that the Church was born, the first community of faith whose faith was rooted in Jesus.
The true Church: Mary and Peter
Mary the mother of Jesus also came to Capernaum, with Jesus and for Jesus (John 2:12; Mark 3:31ff.; cf. La T.S. 1990, 242-46). Here she was revealed to us and presented as “the Virgin who listens” (MC 17), as “the first disciple of her son” (Red. Mater 20): first in every sense, in time and quality (LG 58). Here, in Simon Peter’s house, she certainly met the Prince of the Apostles, thus initiating the dual Marian and Apostolic-Petrine traditions of the true Church that were emphasized by St. Bridget of Sweden in the 15th century (Revel. IV,139s) and, closer to our own time, by John Paul II (Disc. 22.12.1987).
( L. Cignelli, La grazia dei luoghi santi, Jerusalem 2005, pp. 45-46)
Mary: the mother of Jesus
“It was a case of harmonious joint action: she prayed, Jesus acted; Jesus prayed and performed miracles, she cooperated, with all the sacrifice it entailed.” (G. Venturini, La Donna di Nazareth, Genova 1988, p. 105).
The information the Bible provides regarding Mary’s stays in Capernaum is, as is usually the case, not in great detail, but it is nonetheless boundless in terms of its content and always rich with surprises. We can draw on it without end (Sal 119,96; Sap 7,14) for our edification and consolation (Acts 20:32; Rom 15:4).
Her first stay is referred to by an eyewitness: St. John the Apostle, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:26), the disciple most like the Master, in the view of both St. Ephrem the Syrian (De virg. 25,9) and Maria Valtorta (o. c. 11,54 and 434).
“After this, he and his mother, his brothers and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days” (John 2:12). It was thus a brief visit, of “only a few days”; in all likelihood she stayed in the house of Simon Peter (Mark 1:29; 2:1); and there is no record of any untoward episode having taken place. Capernaum, like Nazareth, had not yet disappointed Jesus; this would come later (Luke 4:22ff., 10:15; Matt 11:23ff.).
It goes without saying that the Lord and, with him, his Mother came to Capernaum, as earlier they had to Cana and other places, uniquely for the purpose of doing good (Luke 1:39ff., 4:31ff.; Acts 10:38). "Everything done by Jesus is a mystery and serves our salvation”, as St. Jerome noted (In Marcum 11, 1-10).
As for the Madonna, on this her first visit to Capernaum she continued the work she had officially begun in Cana: that of Mediatrix of all graces and educator of the brothers and disciples of the Son. So Mary, the faithful woman, redeemed the feminine vocation and raised it to the sublime: sowing everywhere kindness and joy (Luke 1:39ff.; John 2:1ff.); while Eve, the unfaithful woman, had sowed discord and pain (Gen 3:6ff.; Sir 25:12ff.). Naturally, here as elsewhere, the Mother did everything in perfect harmony with the Son. The two appear in the Gospel as indivisible, as they will be in the Liturgy and in the authentic life of the Church. And this is what the mystics, those poets of the spiritual world, have always taught.
Thus Mary devoted herself totally to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, “serving the mystery of Redemption” (LG 56), doing everything, so to speak, on tiptoe. On the other hand her presence, discreet though it was, was still visible. The inhabitants of the village were thus able to see her and come to know her, at least by sight, to such an extent that one day they were able to say: “Do we not know ... his mother?” (John 6:42).
Her second stay is referred to in the Synoptic Gospels, specifically in that of St. Mark who provides the fullest account of it. We will thus draw largely from his account. But first an introductory remark.
Jesus was a son different from the others and, what is more, he was challenged by the religious and political leaders of the country (Mark 2:6ff., 3:2, 6, 22ff.). His Mother followed him as she was able, and hastened to him each time that her maternal telepathy warned her of any danger. At a certain point the troublesome Prophet was even accused of being out of his mind (Mark 3:21). In practical terms,we know that the difference between a madman and a criminal is slight: both are subject to confinement for representing a danger to the public order...
Hence the worry of his relatives, in particular, his mother, for whom “all her thoughts were always and only directed towards her Son, the Son of God” (St. Bernadine of Siena).
“His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.’ But he said to them in reply, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35).
Naturally we must distinguish between the Mother and the Lord’s other relatives who, unfortunately, did not believe in him (John 7:6); she, on the other hand, is the “blessed” believer par excellence (Luke 1:45), so much so that one day the Son himself was to give her as a “mother” and support to the new family that he was forming (John 19:26ff.). He on his part cannot be outdone in generosity (Mark 10:29ff.). As the Mother leads us to the Son and gives him to us (John 2:5), so the Son leads us to the Mother and gives her to us (John 19:26). And the true believers, when they receive Jesus from Mary, so they receive Mary from Jesus (Luke 1:42ff.; John 19:27), thereby becoming participants in his filial blessedness. The Virgin Mary is in fact the most exquisite gift of the Heavenly Father to the Son made man and, through him, to all believers. “Who was more beautiful and sweeter than Mary?” (St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows). She was above all “the best of mothers” (Pope Pius IX).
This is precisely how the Catholic Church, guided by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), has always understood the event in question and another similar one (Luke 11:27ff.): “In the course of her Son’s preaching she received the words whereby in extolling a kingdom beyond the calculations and bonds of flesh and blood, He declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mark 3:35; Luke 11:27ff.) as she was faithfully doing” (cf. Luke 2:19 and 51) (LG 58): She who was “the Virgin who listens” (Mar. cultus 17), “the first disciple of her Son”, the first in time and quality (Red. Mater 20), in sum “the first in the class” (G. Meaolo).
In turn, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, with her keen intuition, pointed out the Madonna’s joy in Jesus’ words on spiritual kinship: “O Immaculate Virgin, most tender of Mothers, in listening to Jesus, you are not saddened. But you rejoice that He makes us understand how our souls become his family here below. Yes, you rejoice that He gives us his life, the infinite treasures of his divinity !… How can we not love you, O my dear Mother, on seeing so much love and so much humility?”(“Why I love you, o Mary!”, translation from the original French available on website of the Sanctuaire de Lisieux, HYPERLINK "http://www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr/Why-I-love-you-o-Mary.html" http://www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr/Why-I-love-you-o-Mary.html)
The Madonna is a mother and, as such, is free from jealousy and rivalry: it is pure love for us, the sons in the Son (Gal 3:26), and is given to each according to his need (Acts 1:14, 4:35). This is why “the Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother” (LG 53), “most loving mother” (Paul VI, Disc. 21-11-64), and imitates her “as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity” (LG 53).
Mary is a model for us, Paul VI declared, “for the way in which, in her own particular life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God (cf. Luke 1:38), because she heard the word of God and acted on it, and because charity and a spirit of service were the driving force of her actions. She is worthy of imitation because she was the first and the most perfect of Christ’s disciples. All of this has a permanent and universal exemplary value” (Mar. cultus 35).
Thus from her, mother and model, we can and we must learn how to live the Christian faith, how to become a Church, in other words, a full and authentic humanity, liberated and promoted to the divine. And it is he himself, Jesus, who wishes it. At Cana the Mother sits us at the school of the Son (John 2:5); here, at Capernaum, it is the Son who sits us at the school of the Mother. He wants us to learn from her to become his family, that is “brother, sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). This occurs precisely through sharing in the “word/will of God” (Luke 8:21; Mark 3:35), which is in fact what made the true greatness of the Mother (Luke 1:45, 11:28) and which, for everyone, represents the secret of all spiritual vitality and fruitfulness, given that “all” are born and grow through the “living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23, 2:2; Psalms 33:9).
For us, therefore, to accept Mary in this way, as mother and model of life, is both our duty and interest. This means accepting the choice of the beloved disciple (John 19:27) and the nascent church (Acts 1:14): an extremely beneficial choice, which saves and “Christifies” (which says it all). Let us recall the prophetic words of Paul VI: “If we want to be Christians, we must be Marians” (Homily, 24 April 1970).
The Apostle Peter
Here he chose his first collaborators, or Apostles, with Simon Peter at their head (Luke 5:10ff.). From this man, who was to become his vicar, he took everything: person, profession, house, bringing all to perfection (Luke 4:38, 5:3ff.).
( L. Cignelli, La grazia dei luoghi santi, Jerusalem 2005, 45 )
The technical vocabulary used by fishermen is scattered throughout the texts, indicating that the reader should take seriously the image of fishing as a metaphor for Jesus’ work and as an image of the Church of that time (Augustan). Since Christ was present on the boat, this was to become a symbol of the Church (Massimo di Torino). The miracle relates to the fishing of men, through the ministry of grace that is the foundation of the Church and that continues to make it grow even until today. Jesus led the people to the Church through his preaching of the Gospel (Cyril of Alexandria). This Church was called to navigation just as Noah had been (Massimo di Torino). Just as the prophets had labored throughout the night, so would the Apostles. One boat represented the Jews and the other, overloaded, the Gentiles (Ephrem the Syrian). Peter, like the demons, recognized that Jesus was the Holy One of God, and his fear arose from the fact that he was in the presence of the holiness of the sinner (Cyril of Alexander). To fish men means to preach to them the kingdom of God in Jesus, and to bring them into this kingdom through the sacrament of the Church (Massimo di Torino).
(La Bibbia commentata dai Padri-Nuovo testamento a cura di A. A. Just Jr, Citta Nuova, Roma 2006. )
The Apostle Peter, Primate of the Apostles, the one who received his call on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, responded immediately and with generosity. The setting in which his calling took place was that of his daily life, which was thus already a sign of the mission that Simon would carry out in his life. Jesus said to him: “I will make you a fisher of men”, making reference to his future mission as head of the Church. Peter’s role will always be that of a leader, an important role within the group of the Apostles, he will always be the spokesmen and the point of reference. His relationship with Jesus changed him profoundly and it is noteworthy that this relationship became like that of a family, and his house became the center and place in which Jesus lived. This aspect shows the relationship of intimacy and familiarity that developed between teacher and disciple. Jesus entered into Peter’s house and lived there as if it were his own.
Peter was later to show himself to be weak and fragile, which only serves to make clear that Peter was the first by grace, not by merit!
It was in this context that Jesus gave a new name to the Apostle, who was no longer to be called Simon but Peter (Cephas/Rock), thus reaffirming his vocation: he is to be the rock foundation of the new community that Christ is establishing, calling on the disciples to follow him and live with him.
The Gospel revealed to the childlike
Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 11, 25-27)
At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 18: 1-5)
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
Gospel of St. Mark (Mark 9: 33-37)
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them,
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me."
Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 9: 46-48)
But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest."