We almost always ignore the geographic references in reading the Scriptures. Just as we didn’t know Kabul
and Khandahar until our troops were there, Scriptural geography means nothing to us until we relate to these places. Today, let’s do just that. For the Third Sunday readings (this last weekend,) Jesus moved from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee to the rest of Galilee, called Zabulon and Nephtali, and beyond.
Nazareth is Jesus’ home town – the place where he experienced the love of his family, where he grew, made mistakes, learned to earn a living. It was the place where he first became a people-watcher and learned how to live from observing children and adults alike.
Where is your Nazareth? Where did you learn to give and receive love? Where did you get your image of what it means to be a spiritual man or woman or to be a believer in the Holy One?
There’s a one act play about Blessed John XXIII in which the Pope muses about himself:
One of my earliest memories- my father hoisted me up on his shoulders to see a parade. It was one of my best memories of him. He must have cared more than I realized. Would a father hold his son on his shoulder, if he didn’t care? How many people in my life have carried me on their shoulders? On whose shoulders have you climbed? Take time later today to think of your own Nazareth…and the people who held you up so you could see.
Jesus also spent time at the Sea of Galilee. To this day, it is a welcoming place where fishermen work the waters. It was here that Jesus called Simon and Andrew, James and John. They followed Jesus, immediately, Matthew says.
The seashore is a place of friendship made firm, a place of care and concern. Capharnaum, on the Sea of Galilee, became Jesus’ adopted home. Where is the place where people love you so much that they stop what they are doing when you arrive, just to spend time with you? Where is the place you feel most at home. Where does the world feel tender to you? And where is it that others feel this way with you?
Remember this line from Cheers : “Everyone needs a place where everyone knows your name.” Is that place where everyone knows our names in our distant past, or do we still go there, if only in our dreams?
Not all the places we visit in life are places of nurturing, love and friendship. We have our own faraway places with strange sounding names, like Zebulon and Naphthali, where people have been living in darkness and are in dire need of healing. How did we get there? And why?
Where are the dark places of your life? The places that make you feel tense? The places where people need healing? It’s not easy to go there or to be with these people. It wasn’t easy for Jesus to leave his comfort zone. It’s even more difficult to take the warmth and good feelings of the Nazareths and seashores of our life to live these out in an unwelcomed environment. Heartfelt sharing happens easily in a friendly place, but when I enter the dark regions of my life, do I give any of me away? Do I bring light into these dark places or do I hoard the light, save my light for places already well lit?
Eventually, Jesus traveled to other foreign places: Samaria, Decapolis across the Jordan, Judea, Jericho and Jerusalem, itself. In some of these places, he found kindred spirits. In other places, he was rejected. Some people wanted everything he could give, as if it were their due. Some tried to trip him. Others believed in him.
Wherever he went, Jesus was faithful to his father, to who he was, to all that he was at Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. As his followers, we are called to be no less faithful, wherever the journey of life takes us.
~Joan Sobala, SSJ