So last week we heard from St. Mark about Jesus making a little bit of a spectacle of Himself at the synagogue in Capernaum. He had chosen to make Capernaum His home base after the arrest of His cousin John the Baptist, and not long after He had chosen Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John as His disciples, He started speaking with the kind of authority not heard since the great prophets and working great wonders like casting out demons.
One couldn’t do such things in Capernaum without being found out. Although Jesus wouldn’t let the demons He was casting out speak, lest they reveal Him as the Christ, the people were starting to catch on. And so He and the fantastic four scurried off to Simon Peter’s house to wait out the rest of the Sabbath day.
Now, Peter was married and the head of his household, so his father was likely dead. In Peter’s house was his wife and mother-in-law, along with his brother Andrew, who had not yet married. Peter’s house was decent, he was firmly middle class, and all indications were that his was a peaceful house.
(You can visit his house, by the way; In the fifth century a large octagonal Byzantine church was built over the ruins of Peter’s house, which had been the object of devotion for centuries. In modern times, an even larger octagonal church, this one hideously ugly, replaced the old one. Christian symbols had been scrawled all over the original stones, though, sacred graffiti for all intents and purposes, and you can view all that through the glass floor of the new structure)
Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law to in the grip of a terrible fever, and so He touched her on the head, like a father checking his child’s temperature or a physician doing the same, and of course she was healed. They all seemed to relax for a while, probably eating and lounging around the house after a rough day at the synagogue.
But again, this being Capernaum, a city of maybe 1500 people, this wonder-working rabbi would not be left alone for long. As soon as the evening had come (the people couldn’t venture out with the sick until the end of the Sabbath), the whole city gathered at Peter’s house, some with the sick, some demoniacs, some just hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus, just in case He turned out to be the one they had been waiting for.
You see, even though Jesus didn’t let the demons talk, the people had figured out that the Kingdom of God had come near, and the people of Capernaum, all 1500 of them, were not particularly casual when it came to the Kingdom.
I think it’s really easy for us to fall into a trap, though, to become “far too casual about God’s kingdom. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” we say each time we intone the Lord’s Prayer, but when we finish our prayer and open our eyes, we do not see any such kingdom (or at least we don’t think we do). It is difficult for us to conceive of a kingdom that is not also a definable place on the map–a realm with borders and with visible signs that this particular place is different from all other places.”1
But do you think I would sound weird if I told you that the Kingdom of God is here, here and now? Bordentown could be considered a modern-day Capernaum: important for it’s size, a great place to be, a place Jesus might set up shop and find some disciples. Jesus has brought the Kingdom of God here just as He did to Capernaum: the Kingdom is present whenever the Mass is said, whenever two or three gather together in Jesus’ Name; the Kingdom is present whenever the hungry are fed or a coat finds a new deserving owner; whenever the sick are visited or the dead remembered; whenever we treat those around us like we are disciples of Jesus; whenever this beautiful church is made ready to accept once again anyone who comes through those doors.
If you hang around here at all, you know these things (and so many other wonderful things) happen a lot. It’s our job to let people know that the Kingdom of God is near, that Jesus has set up shop right here, so that our city might gather at that door.
1. Scott Hoezee, This Week