During more peaceful times, we pilgrims to the Holy Land flew in to Tel Aviv and after landing, we were transferred from the airplane to a modern bus for their journey through the Holy Land. Most of these bus trips first head up to the Galilee, the route continuing north around the edge of the Sea.
We arrive at Capernaum. Two features stand out. First, we pilgrims are escorted off the bus to visit the stunning ruins of the “White Synagogue, a 5 th century structure that is built over the site of the synagogue where Jesus taught and prayed. The older floor from the 1 st century juts out from under the newer ruins on one side and here, the old song hits home, “I walked today where Jesus walked.” Then, just a short stroll south toward the water’s edge, there is a striking church, built up over the old ruins of an ancient church, the Domus Ecclesi, the “house church.” When archeologists investigated that site, they discovered it was constructed over what early Christians knew to be the home of St. Peter. This modern church is built over the site on flying buttresses, and from the worship space you can look down through a glass floor to the house. It was here that Jesus stayed while in Capernaum and it was here that he healed Peter’s mother-in-law who was lying down, racked with fever. When word got out of this healing—as such words do spread so quickly—the whole town seemed to have gathered at the door. They bring all who were sick and Jesus cured them right there. And St. Mark adds that Jesus drove out many demons.
Jesus does not remain in Capernaum. He now moves about the whole area, preaching the Good News and curing the sick. He seeks out all who are ill and heals them. Today it would take a full hospital staff of specialists to attend to these people with their variety of diseases. Just search the website of (name a local hospital) Hospital and look at the long list of specialists who practice there. The list goes on and on. But Jesus is a generalist when it comes to the healing power of the Son of God. Everyone is welcomed and everyone is cured.
One Christian woman, a Nurse Practitioner, saves her vacation days to join with other medical professionals on a bi-annual visit to a small village on the coast of Somalia. The village is located on an island, mostly for protection against the warlords who show up now and then to rob and destroy. While the team is there, they must become generalists. Every disease needs to be treated, even if no
specialist is there to provide help. Everyone who is sick is sought out and treated with love and Christ-like compassion. Each evening the medical missionaries join in worship and welcome everyone to that time of evening prayer. It is almost like this island in Somalia has become the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus certaionly is present there. But how much more did the Lord serve and heal in the villages in Galilee. People brought all who are ill and Jesus healed them of their disease. The reign of God blossomed forth in Capernaum and the surrounding territory.
All are healed.
Jesus also received those possessed by demons. He drove them out! This action is
decisive in the Greek; it speaks of a forcible ejection and not a partial or temporary leaving. The demons were banished and forbidden to return to those who had been under their power. Mark adds that Jesus did not permit them to speak… “because they knew him to be the Christ.” Now when the demonic comes to mind, we usually think of loud, abusive and self-centered speech. We think of Hitler during the Second War or George Wallace during the Civil Rights era. We
will also hear such demonic speech grow even louder as the presidential election comes near.
But Jesus didn’t allow the demons to speak. They were silenced. Have you noticed that of late there is a kind of half way self-silencing of such demonic speech? Publically, some would not allow their inner thoughts about people, those biases and hatred to be spoken. They are partially silenced, by others in the community of faith; they hold back on these attitudes in public. The “room” of the church no longer welcomed such hateful talk. So that demonic speech was silenced in the room of the church. But, as Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman notes, there is a “back room” where the old demonic talk can thrive and even be valued. 1 All you have to do is check on social media when some event related to race comes up (inner city shootings, for example). There are only prayers of intercession for peace and for healing of all persons in the public room of our worship. But look at what happens on social media. The demonic voices are not silenced there, more, they are amplified! The back room of prejudice and racial hatred is right there on
social media. Those demons have not really been silenced at all!
On the other hand, when a skillful and caring counselor discerns some old voices within a client that continue to speak of unworthiness or being “bad,” of not measuring up to others in the family, those voices can be quelled during the therapeutic journey. They no longer have power to define the patient’s identity and emotions. In Christ’s name, they are silenced. They are driven out!
“Very early,” Mark says, Jesus left the village and went off to pray.” Simon and the
others pursued him and tried to bring him back to their home town. But Jesus announces, “Let us go by another way into the nearby villages that I may preach there also.” Then Mark adds, “So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” There is a unique quality to Jesus’ preaching—he is about this ministry at every opportunity and it centers in the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
But there is more, did you notice? Jesus went throughout Galilee and preached and drove out demons. He proclaimed the Good News and enacted it among those who were oppressed and held captive. The ministry of the Lord will be comprised of both Word and action. Right from the outset of Jesus’ ministry there in Capernaum, Jesus holds these two together. He preaches and he heals and liberates.
So blessed are those churches that open the Scriptures lavishly to the people of God, who then proclaim it and welcome Recovery Ministries within the church facility. Word and action. Blessed are those Christians who preach the whole counsels of God and who have vibrant and caring ministries to the sick and the dying.
Word and Action.
Blessed are those congregations in which the Scriptures are proclaimed and the Word is enacted sacramentally at the Eucharistic Feast. Here are Word and action at the center of life together. In this very room Word and action come together. Our Lord continues to bless us with healing and liberation, and we are fed with his precious Body and Blood. We rejoice in his presence and we go in peace to proclaim his Word in the world, caring for all who suffer and are heavy laden.
We give thanks for the Word and praise God for such a calling.
Of course, we do run across some of the TV preachers who are never without a word, but whose actions are sometimes self-serving and exploit human need for their own coffers. (Word, but no action “Evangelists!”) But our Lord models the Good News he proclaims. He heals the sick and drives out the demonic from the children of God. Jesus does not remain in his adopted hometown of Capernaum. He announces, “Let us go by another way…” And he does, all over Galilee, proclaiming the gospel and healing the sick and oppressed. Both Word and action come together in Christ, and he remains the North Star of our ministries.