Monday, February 9, 2015

Let's All Meet at Peter's House and Go From There

Quite often in the gospels, there are lines that don't seem particularly poignant or critical to the story, but are the most moving for me.  For instance, when St. Matthew concludes the account of the Magi, he says, "They went home by a different route."  That line has often been a source of meditation for me. Or, when Judas leaves the Last Supper and St. John solemnly notes, "And, it was night."  Or, when St. John records that "It was about four o'clock in the afternoon" when Andrew and he followed Christ.  In those few words, St. John makes his encounter with Christ not just a vague notion, but rather a fact that happened.

Similarly, when I visited the Holy Land a couple of years ago, I was surprised by what places actually moved me most.  One of the places that most moved me would not appear on a "top ten must see" list in the Holy Land.  In Capernaum, a short walk from the remnants of the synagogue there, are some ruins of a first century house.  Surrounding those ruins are the ruins of two early churches that were built over that site. There is high certitude that these ruins are the home of St. Peter.  The threshold of the doorway from the original house is still there.  It is this threshold that is described in the Gospel that we heard this past Sunday at Mass.  

The Gospel of St. Mark records for us about that house, "The whole town was gathered at the door."  Why were they there?  They were there because people had witnessed Jesus earlier in the day cast out a demon from a man in the synagogue.  Then, Jesus came to Peter's house and healed Peter's mother-in-law.  People saw and experienced the powerful works of Christ and were talking about him.  Naturally, when others heard of this, they wanted to get close to Jesus.  The whole town was gathered at the door.  This is what I found so moving about this piece of rock in Capernaum.  It was there that a whole town of people stood with longing and expectation to be healed by Christ, to be touched by his power, to be freed from their afflictions.  The whole town was gathered at the door.

A few passages later, Peter will speak words that were far more profound than he ever realized at the time.  Jesus had gone off by himself for some time to pray.  Peter and the others go looking for Jesus and when they find him, Peter says something so beautiful!  "Everyone is looking for you."  Yes, everyone is looking for Jesus!  Whether they know it or not, whether they can articulate it or not, everyone is looking for Jesus.  Everyone is looking for healing.  Everyone is looking for true and lasting happiness.  Everyone wants to be freed from the slavery of sin and death.  Everyone is looking to experience the power of God.  Everyone is looking for Jesus.

The reason that the whole town was gathered at the door of Peter is because word had spread about the mighty deeds of Jesus.  When people heard that others had experienced healing and freedom through the power of Christ, they went looking for him.  They arrived at the house of Peter.  Do we realize that everyone in the world desires to be healed and set free?  If so, then we should share with them our experience of the power of Christ.  How has he touched my life? How has he set me free?  How has he healed what is wounded in me?  The more we bear witness to the power of Christ in our own life, the more others will arrive at the door of Peter and ask Jesus to do the same for them.

When I read and meditate on this particular gospel passage, I imagine myself standing at the door of Peter's house and gathered with me is not just the whole town, but the whole world.  Everyone is standing there looking for healing.  Sometimes, people are afraid to approach Peter's house--the Church--because they are not worthy, not fit, or not holy enough.  They hesitate to go to Peter's house because they feel unclean, under the influence of demonic powers, or enslaved by sin.  St. Mark makes clear in his gospel that this is precisely who belongs at the house of Peter.  The whole town was gathered at the door.  Everyone of them needed healing.  

"Everyone is looking for you."  Yes, everyone is looking for Jesus.  Everyone is looking to experience the power of his healing.  Perhaps, as we live this week, we can do so in solidarity.  Let us imagine ourselves standing at the door of Peter with the whole town.  We stand there together, each in need of healing of some sort or another.  None of us is a mere spectator.  No, we are at the threshold of Peter's house because we are all in need of Christ's power.  But, it is not enough just to go to Peter's house and encounter Jesus.  At the end of this week's Gospel, once Peter declares, "Everyone is looking for you," Jesus says, "Let us go on to the nearby villages."  The good news is meant to be shared.  

The whole world is looking for Jesus.  You can help them find him.

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