by Father Mike Stubbs
Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mk 2:1-12, sets the scene for Jesus’ healing of the paralytic and his controversy with the scribes over extending forgiveness to the paralytic: “When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.” The phrase translated in the Lectionary as “at home” literally means “in the house.” It leads us to ask some questions: Has Jesus taken up residence in Capernaum and moved out of Nazareth? Is the house in question Jesus’ home? Or, is Jesus temporarily staying with Simon and Andrew, in the house where Jesus had recently healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever?
In any case, it is significant that this healing of the paralytic and the forgiving of his sins takes place in a house, rather than in the synagogue or on the street. After all, those who first heard Mark’s Gospel most likely had gathered in someone’s home to celebrate the Eucharist. Typically, the early Christians would meet every Sunday in a house belonging to one member of the local community. The apostle Paul reflects this practice in his letters. For example, he writes in Rom 16:3-5: “Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila; they were my fellow workers in the service of Christ Jesus and even risked their lives for the sake of mine. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Remember me also to the congregation that meets in their house.”
After all, the crowd in the Gospel reading had gathered in the house in Capernaum (the home of Simon and Andrew?) to listen to Jesus preach.
Similarly, the early Christians gathered in homes to hear the word of God, through the preaching of the apostles and through their writings.
The crowd in the Gospel reading witnessed the healing of the paralytic. Similarly, the early Christian congregations also looked forward to witnessing the wonders of God’s love in the liturgy.
The crowd in the Gospel reading heard Jesus’ words of forgiveness to the paralytic. Similarly, the early Christian congregations also experienced the forgiveness that comes from Jesus.
The early Christians, meeting in a house, could easily identify with the crowd in the Gospel reading who had also gathered in a house in Capernaum to see Jesus. But whose house was it? Did it belong to Jesus or to someone else?
And what about the building where we gather on Sundays to worship? Whose house is it? We sometimes call the church building the house of God. But we can also claim it as our home. It is the house where God’s family finds a home on earth. It is the house which looks forward to our true home in heaven.