Me and Jim, we’d been fishing with our dad Zeb and the hired men, but we’d left the boat a day or two earlier and followed Jesus. Just like Andy and Simon did. Now, we were still at home in Capernaum, and it was fairly early when we all crowded into the little synagogue there. We’d been going there all our lives – mostly out of habit, I think. Nobody ever called us Galilee boys “religious”!
Still, there we were, because this Jesus had said “follow me,” and somehow we just did. When I think about it now, I wonder if I just wasn’t a kid, wanting a bit of an adventure when I took him up on it. Well, I sure got one!
So anyway, just about everyone else in town was there, too. And folks were amazed at him. It was the way he talked. It was like he knew something personally. Not out of books or from others, but from someplace deep inside himself. You couldn’t miss it if you listened to him. Come to think of it, it’s probably why Jim and me, we just said “Goodbye” to the old fellow and took off after Jesus!
There was a man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit. How he got in there was anybody’s guess, and how the unclean spirit got into him wasn’t known, either. There were a lot of those things hanging around in those days. Maybe it was the general atmosphere of trouble and oppression, but whatever it was, unclean spirits and their pals the demons were doing pretty good business among our people. So the spirit inside this man screamed out: "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"
Wow. You can imagine that in a little one-horse town like ours, this was big stuff. People were excited, their heads going back and forth between that man and Jesus. What did all that mean? And what was Jesus going to say back?
Jesus didn’t waste any time, just gave the order -- Quiet! Come out of him!" – and doggone if that old unclean spirit didn’t just leave that poor guy right then and there. Of course, that spirit couldn’t just go quietly, that’s not their way. Nope, he convulsed him first – which everyone was impressed by, too, as you might imagine. There’s nothing like someone foaming at the mouth and all to get everyone riled up. But you know, it was more than the poor man on the ground that got people excited. It was the way Jesus just took charge and told that spirit to get lost. He didn’t touch the man, he didn’t do any kind of mumbo-jumbo whatsoever, just said the word, and bam. Out went that spirit, as quick as lightning.
As I recall, there was silence for a long minute. All you could hear was the sound of the man panting and flopping around on the floor.
And then the chatter began. All the people, meaning the pious ones who ran everything and also people like me and my brother, all of us were real shook up and amazed and we were shouting at each other:
Did you see that?
Did you hear that?
Wasn’t that incredible?
Meanwhile, the guy the unclean spirit had left was just lying there, dazed. I think Jesus was the one who finally hoisted him to his feet and sent him on his way. The rest of us were too busy figuring it all out, quoting scripture to each other, offering instant replay, that kind of thing. And you know what? That was just the first thing that happened in Capernaum that day. Ask Simon’s mother-in-law if you want to know what went on later.
Listen, it’s no secret that my brother and me were -- and still are -- pretty simple people. We never went to school, never had time for much learning beyond learning how to manage the boat and catch the fish. But we recognize quality when we see it. And we saw it in this man Jesus that day. I looked at Jim, he looked at me, and we nodded to each other. No need for any talk. No going back to the nets for us. Old Zeb would have to make do with the hired hands, at least for the time being.
—Sr. Nuala Cotter, RA, Provincial of the U.S. Province