4th Week of Lent, Monday, March 15
Isaiah 65:17-21 / John 4:43-54
Jesus saves a man's son; The man trusted Jesus.
Years ago there was a movie called Quo Vadis. Starring Deborah Kerr, it dealt with the persecution of Christians in ancient Rome. One day after a dangerous filming session, a reporter asked Deborah, "Weren't you afraid when the lions rushed you in the arena?" Deborah replied, "Not at all! I'd read the script and I knew I'd be rescued." This is the kind of childlike trust that the royal official had in Jesus' promise: "Your son will live."
What kind of trust do we put in the promises of Jesus—promises like "Ask and you will receive" and "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day"? Luke 11:9; John 6:54
"If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come." Chinese proverb
It is often easier to talk about concepts and ideas rather than to talk about reality and experiences. This may sound strange but for those of us who are in the teaching and presentation business, we find it easier to talk about lofty and high-flown concepts and ideas. To talk about reality and the human experience would require some thinking and reflection in order to find the right expressions.
In the gospel, Jesus seemed to be talking about the lofty ideas of faith and belief rather than to give the people the signs that they needed. But the court official begged Him with these words: Come down, before my child dies. But that phrase "come down" was not to tell Jesus to stop talking up there in the air. Rather it was an open invitation for Jesus to come and reinforce the faith that the court official had in Jesus. The court official too had to "come down" to the essentials of his faith and believe in Jesus, and to obey Jesus to go home and believe that his son will live.
For people who believe, the golden age lies in the future, not in the past, says the third section of the book of Isaiah. Before the exile, the Jews and their prophets looked to the beginnings, to the past, as the golden era from which humankind had declined. Now the prophet turns to the future. For the believer there is a new world to be built as a sign of the new heaven. Life lies in the future.
The building up of this new world began seriously in Christ. His word renews people. Faith in him brings life and healing, something to live for and joy – now and even more so in the future: a new world, a new relationship with God, a new People of God.
Modern medicine in recent times has made tremendous progress. And yet with all its wonders, all that the science of medicine can accomplish at most is to prolong life, to put off the inevitable day of death. It can do nothing once a person has died.
Through his miracles Jesus wanted to show that he had power not only over sickness but over death itself. The faith of the royal official in today's gospel was at first only a belief that Jesus had extraordinary healing powers, that he was some kind of super physician. Jesus rejected that type of faith. But the man struggled, with God's help, to deepen his faith and cried out: "Sir, come down before my child dies." When Jesus told him that his son would live, he put his whole trust in the words of Jesus and started for home. When he discovered upon returning home that his son was alive and well, he came to full faith in Jesus as the life-giver; he became a believer.
This final, complete faith of the official is the kind of faith we must have in Jesus. Jesus is not concerned merely with our temporal well-being. He wishes us to share one day in his own resurrection from the dead, so that we may enjoy his eternal happiness in heaven.
All during Lent we look forward to our celebration at Easter of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In faith we must see that Christ's victory over death as manifested in his resurrection is our victory as well. God will one day create new heavens and a new earth, as we heard in the first reading. Provided we keep our faith and trust in Jesus, we will enjoy that new creation through our resurrection with Jesus from the dead.
Lord our God, almighty Father, you want us not to turn to the past to regret it and to mourn over it but to hope in the future, in the new earth and the new heaven. Give us a firm faith in your Son Jesus Christ, that notwithstanding the shortcomings of our time we may have faith in the future, which you want us to build up with your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen