Fr. Luke Homily- February 6th & 7th
“Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose, have I come.” So, he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” Words from our Gospel today from the 1st chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
Anyone still have family photo albums lying around? A lot of times at family celebrations or funerals even, we will pull out pictures of our loved ones and the moments we cherished together. This is her first Christmas. This is the time when he slipped and fell into the water and everyone was laughing. This is our family on vacation. This is Mom and Dad dancing at their 40th wedding anniversary. Indeed, the digital camera has revolutionized the way we store our photographs, and I admit that I have been wanting to reorganize the many pictures I have taken on my computer. I’ll probably go through some of my photo albums soon enough. All the same, then as is the case now, we still take plenty of pictures and videos and find great value in looking at them from time to time on our phones and computers and sharing them with each other.
Today’s Gospel and the Gospel passages of Mark from the last two weeks is like going through a photo album of Jesus’ travels throughout Capernaum, as he went through the houses, the hillsides, the shoreline, and the synagogue there. In Mark’s Gospel, Capernaum was Jesus’ home base and he accomplished a lot of ministry there. As we go through this first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, it’s almost as if St. Mark is holding up pictures and sharing some memories of Jesus with us from this photo album: here is when he called his disciples on the shore of Galilee; look there’s James and John mending the nets. Remember this time, when he stood up in the synagogue and delivered a powerful sermon; everyone was moved by his teaching and even the unclean spirits there acknowledged his might. Look at this picture: Simon Peter, his mother-in-law, she was terribly sick, and we were unsure if she would ever recover; yet Jesus came over to her house and raised her up, not just physically, but he brought new life and purpose to her once again. And then there was that time when he sat on his front porch; people came from everywhere just to see him, even into the evening; that was a long day. You know, he was a little overwhelmed after that; so there he is on the hillside, praying in the stillness of the morning. Jesus needed time to rest and pray just like us. And Mark holds up to us picture after picture of Jesus’ time in Capernaum. But as we go through the pictures, we get the sense that Jesus was made for more than this small backwater town. He had a bigger mission in mind. He knew he was sent to the whole world with all its towns and villages. After covering every square inch of Capernaum, finally, he declares, “let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose, have I come.”
Jesus, St. Paul, the apostles: they had a Gospel to preach and woe if they did not preach it. And so, the message about the Good News of the Kingdom of God began to spread throughout the world, as by God’s grace, Jesus and his disciples had become all things to all trying to reach as many people as they possibly could. New photo albums and memories of God’s grace were being made. Now, it doesn’t say which towns were visited. There are many listed by name in Jesus’ travels, but there are many others that were not listed. Perhaps, a town that Jesus would have visited near Capernaum along the sea of Galilee would have been the town of Migdal, or Magdala, where Mary Magdalene comes from. I mention Migdal because I had visited that town when I went over to the Holy Land. And in Migdal, there was a prayer space there with several chapels dedicated to various scenes from the Gospels. Again, it was like going through a photo album, seeing all these encounters with Jesus. There was a mural in one chapel of the hemorrhaging woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed. There was a scene displaying the cure of the synagogue official’s daughter against the background of cultural references learned from their excavations. There was a mosaic showing the exorcism of Mary Magdalene out of whom came seven demons, and amongst others, there was a chapel dedicated to the women who followed Jesus and supported his ministry. With all these scenes the town of Migdal symbolized, in a very concrete way, all those surrounding towns and villages unnamed in the Scriptures that Jesus journeyed to in order to preach in their synagogues and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. I promise: someday we’ll do a virtual tour of the Holy Land here at St. Mary’s where I’ll share some of my pictures from my photo album of Capernaum and Migdal and some of the other places of Jesus’ time and we can share memories of Jesus together.
In any event, Peter declares today, “Everyone is looking for you, Jesus.” This is true of every human heart. Jesus recognized this and decided it was time to move on to the next town and begin getting the message out to the whole world. What would it be like, I wonder, for Jesus to wander into Clarence, or East Amherst, or Swormville or in some of the unnamed towns which Jesus intended to travel to, so that he could likewise touch our hearts which are also yearning for God. If a mural or a mosaic or a photo album would be put together of Jesus’ visit to our town, what would it depict? Like Job, what are the struggles we are going through and what is the good news that Jesus brings? What work is Jesus accomplishing in these towns and villages of ours? Perhaps, these statues in our Church point to Jesus’ visit to our town: with the statue of Mary, we are reminded of how our families and family life is important, and how the Holy Family leads us into holiness. Over here under the patronage of Joseph, we are reminded how there is a great dignity to work, and how by our ministries, and careers, and vocations we become good stewards and live out our purpose. Perhaps, especially as we celebrate the end of Catholic Schools Week, this statue of Jesus with the children reminds us how us children are invited into God’s family and have a place in his Kingdom. We strive here to be good formators and teachers of youth after the example of Jesus. With this statue of Jesus healing the blind man, think of how he has brought healing to our experiences of hurt and opened our eyes to a new way of life that is lived in faith. There are more pictures and statues around here, in the chapel, and on campus; I imagine that we have our own Holy Communion Pictures and crucifixes and keepsakes of our encounters with Jesus in our homes. These are but a few reminders of the good that Jesus is doing here in our midst for us… A picture is worth a thousand words. Jesus indeed does not say much in Mark’s Gospel. St. Mark leaves that to us as we move from scene to scene and we encounter and remember the activity of Jesus. Jesus has come to this village. He has and does encounter us here. We are his disciples, we are witnesses of these things. And as his disciples, we too have a Gospel to preach. Is Jesus in our photo albums? What stories are we telling?