Capernaum History

Capernaum synagogue
A certain goofball with a name tag, listening to an expert, with a good priest and two lovely ladies, in the Capernaum Synagogue

Guess what? We will read today’s Holy-Mass gospel passage again, soon. On Super Bowl Sunday. I guess what I say that day about people being ill will depend on whether or not the NE Patriots make it into the Super Bowl yet again.

Seriously, though. At the beginning of St. Mark’s gospel we get a little insight into the closest thing to a “home life” that the Lord Jesus had during his ministry as a rabbi and healer. The city of Capernaum sat right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Far enough away from Nazareth that the Lord did not count as a “local.” Here He got to know Sts. Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. And they began to believe in Him as the Christ.

This year we will keep many notable 50th anniversaries, since 1968 was such an eventful year. One notable event was: the archaeological excavations of Capernaum. In 1968 they discovered by digging that Christians had gathered and worshiped at one ancient house beginning in the first part of the first century AD.

In other words, the gospels and the science of archaeology came together in 1968 to unite us with the enchanting facts of history: here the Son of God lived and made a kind of home during his three year ministry. In the house where He healed St. Peter’s mother-in-law, and then she exercised her duties as a hostess towards Him. The house where people crowded to see Him, hear Him, touch Him.

We know the site; I’ve been there twice myself. It’s walking distance to the peaceful shore of the sea. Actually, Galilee is more like what we would call a lake. It is exactly double the size of Smith Mountain Lake. Lake Michigan could hold 350 Seas of Galilee.

excavation of house in Capernaum
The excavated Peter’s House site in Capernaum

The Galilean shore is just the kind of peaceful place where we could easily imagine the Lord Jesus strolling of the evening, rapt in prayer to the Father.

The point here, I think, is: The connection between Jesus Christ and us is real and verifiable on the most basic historical level. We don’t have to get all mystical and transcendent about it, to establish that we have a bond with Him.

That said, of course there is a mystical and transcendent connection, through Christ’s triumph over death and His Ascension into heaven; through the grace He gives us through the sacraments, especially His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

But these two kinds of connection go hand-in-hand for us Christians. We’re connected to Jesus of Nazareth by the normal handing down of human memories, through the writing of books and the building of memorials in important spots. And we’re connected with Him by heavenly graces that transcend all the human workings of history. For us, these two kinds of connection both pertain to the one, fundamental bond we have with Him, namely, the love of His Heart for us.

One thought on “Capernaum History

  1. Thank you Father for reminding us that Jesus is THE historical figure who lived in a particular time and place. For Christmas, I requested and received, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. The author Brant Pitre makes it very interesting to hear Jesus teachings and the reactions of His Apostles, Apostle Paul, Jewish citizens, the Pharisee, etc… during the first-century in a Jewish context.

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