Capernaum, which we hear about today, survives as a small town at the Northern end of Sea of Galilee. It was actually the home of the brothers Peter and Andrew, James and John. It was here that Jesus set up a base for the period of his ministry before the final push to Jerusalem. There is an ideal bay with a small radius where fishing boats can be safely dragged ashore. It is easy to imagine the Gospel scene:
“Now it happened one day, that he was standing by the Lake, with the crowd pressing round, when he caught sight of two boats at the water’s edge. He got into one of the boats — it was Simon’s — and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ Luke 5 1-4.
The town itself is set back a few hundred yards from the shoreline. You can picture the four brothers tired and weary winding their way home at the end of the day. It was here that Jesus is said to have cured Peter‟s Mother-in- law. Mark 1v30. I am inclined to the belief that the poor woman had taken to her bed before that exasperating son in law should turn up with his mates expecting dinner on the table. On this particular day Peter turned up with a new friend to whom she took an unexpected liking. The virus mysteriously left her. “He took her by the Hand” so that soon she got up “and began to wait on them”. Surely it is no coincidence that the next morning St Mark says “Jesus got up early and went into the hills to pray”. This needs no pious explanation. It is simply Jesus discreetly avoiding any domestic friction and giving them all a little space first thing in the morning. It was then that Jesus and his new found disciples began to set off on their journeys together.
Today you can visit the largely unspoilt scene of Capernaum. There are lots of historical remains including an ancient synagogue built on the foundations of an earlier sanctuary where Jesus must have proclaimed the message in today‟s gospel. There are also the circular remains of a small stone house. From ancient times it has been claimed to be the house of St Peter. It is covered by a beautiful modern church with a glass floor where you can look down between your feet during Mass and think “Jesus must have stayed here”. I never took this seriously until I visited Ethiopia some years ago. Here you can see similar stone built circular houses which have been in use for over 1000 years near the rock hewn churches of Lalibella. Peter‟s house must have been the same. It was one of the first sites shown to Queen Helena of Rome when she visited the holy land in search of evidence of the Gospel stories.
We must make a plan to visit ourselves. All in good time….