Celebrating the Public Life of Jesus

On the second Saturday in October there is a traditional pilgrimage in Capernaum, the “city of Jesus,” where many Gospel stories and miracles occurred. Christians from around the area, especially Nazareth, follow in the footsteps of Christ going to Capernaum to celebrate and remember the public life of Jesus.  Saturday, October 14 the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land once again continued this traditional pilgrimage on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the ancient town.

It began with the memories that Jesus came to Capernaum from his hometown of Nazareth; his preaching about conversion and his calling of the first apostles of Peter, Andrew, James, and John (Matthew 4: 12-22). The group of priests, friars, and pilgrims then processed to the church and memorial where the Lord gave the Bread of Life discourse and taught about the Eucharist (John 6: 25-29); to the house of Peter, where Jesus healed the mother-in-law of the apostle and other sick people (Luke 4: 38-41) including a paralytic, as a sign of forgiveness of sins, and also where he called Matthew to follow him (Mark 2:1-17).

Fr. Dobromir Jazstal OFM, Vicar of the Custody, celebrated Mass at the Church over Peter’s house. “The stories we have heard today are of the simple and profound moments of Christ’s life that have meaning for us today,” he said in his homily. He continued, “the centurion’s faith is great because he recognizes the power of Jesus’ word. We are also urged to turn to Jesus with such obedient faith as model of the attitude that we all must take before God.” Fr. Jazstal also commented on how this gesture wasn’t necessarily what people expected, “Jesus’ contemporaries expected liberation from the power of Rome and from all other enemies, without fully understanding that God wanted to offer them something deeper and much more important: freedom from sin and death.”

The Nazareth parish choir led the congregation in worship, bringing their familiar solemn tone to the occasion.  At the offertory, fruit baskets were brought up as a sign of thanksgiving to God for the bountiful harvest.  Each person at the Mass – Friars, pilgrims, and students – came forward in a communion-like procession to receive a piece of the fruit in a symbol of the community’s thankfulness for God’s blessings.

Parishioners from Nazareth joyfully take part in the feast every year. Among them is the young director of the choir, Firas, who is also a music student in Jerusalem. Firas smiles with satisfaction after the Mass and the beautiful liturgy. Next to him sit his mother and aunt, who are almost always at Masses that the choir sings.

A member of the congregation commented, “I was surprised by the many languages used at mass.  In this holy site, it is good to see so many people and Friars from around the world, worshiping together.”

This celebration of Christ’s journey from Nazareth to Capernaum, and of his public ministry there, reminds us that we are all called to be pilgrims, and that we are all called to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of those around us.