From our vantage point on top of the Mount of Beatitudes we have a beautiful view of the entire Sea of Galilee. As I look out over the area it struck me that Jesus spent most of his public ministry right here in this relatively small area. While Jesus and the apostles walked many places, we also know that they went by boat as well. They were fishermen and obviously enjoyed the sea. To honor this maritime spirit of the apostles we began our day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Our little wooden boat took off from the spot where a museum has the remains of a 1st century fishing boat on display. I imagined us being out on the sea in much same way as the apostles.
While out on the sea we could get a better vantage point of all the cities that Jesus visited during his public ministry. We began from near Tabgah where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. We then passed the Church of the Primacy of Peter and then stopped to park ourselves opposite the Mount of the Beatitudes.
While stopped, Mike gave us some great teaching on the public ministry of Jesus and helped to point out where all the cities were located. It was so nice to be able to put into perspective where Jesus would have walked and prayed. Basic things like how far it is between places became much more concrete. I especially enjoyed turning off the boat engine and just having some quiet time to pray and take it all in. Jesus would have no doubt taken time on the many boat rides with the apostles to teach them just the way we did.
The destination of our boat ride was the town in which Jesus made his home during his public ministry, the little town of Capernaum. St. Peter’s house was located in this town and it is likely that Jesus also made this his home in Capernaum. We had Mass right on the site where they lowered the paralytic through the roof into Peter’s house. The remains of the 4th century Byzantine church are clearly visible through the floor of the modern church.
The Mass that we celebrated today was in honor of the Most Holy Eucharist because it was here in Capernaum that Jesus gave his famous discourse on the Bread of Life detailed in John chapter 6. I read the Gospel at the Mass and I was very moved by the last line. “This teaching Jesus gave while in the synagogue at Capernaum.” Some of the best kept remains in all Israel are the remains of the synagogue in Capernaum which was clearly visible through the window of the church. As I read the last line of the Gospel I almost wanted to change the words and point out the window, “This teaching Jesus gave…right over there!” I resisted, but it was a great moment. I prayed for a great increase in faith in the Eucharist, that we would be believing and not reject this teaching as many apparently did on that day 2000 years ago.
We left Capernaum by bus, but I’ll never forget our beautiful boat ride. It’s easy to feel close to Jesus and the apostles traveling the same waters they did and hearing and smelling the same things. It also reminded me just how close together all these places are and what a small part of the world Jesus spent his life in. What a beautiful experience this morning.
We interrupt this pilgrimage day for lunch…
After our afternoon rest and evening meal we headed back down to the sea for a very special event. One of the churches on the shore is known as the church of the Primacy of Peter. It is built on the spot where Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection and had breakfast with them. Most famously, it is here where Jesus reconciled Peter after his three denials, allowing him three times to say how much he loved Jesus. Just as Peter was reconciled to Jesus on this spot, so we took the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation here.
I love to tell people about this spot because it was here that Peter got to hear personally from Jesus that he was forgiven. What if Peter never had this encounter with Jesus on the seashore? He might have gone the rest of his life embarrassed and doubting his relationship with Jesus. Instead, Jesus quickly heals him and prepares him to carry on his mission as “the Rock.” Confession is meant to do the same thing for us, to set us free from past guilt and fear and allow us to carry on our mission with new boldness and conviction. It was a moment in my priesthood tonight that I will never forget as I heard confessions right on this spot that I have so often talked about. Praise God for his beautiful mercy and the gift of the priesthood that allows us to hear his voice offering us his forgiveness.