Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.

Entering the latter half of Lent we turn to the Gospel of Saint John. I am reluctant to compare the gospels to one another or describe a gospel as deeper, more beautiful or meaningful than the others – all four of them are transcendently beautiful and far deeper than human comprehension – but the Fourth Gospel is certainly overwhelming in every respect.

One of the greatest scholars of the church, Origin, aptly said of it, “A mouse could wade across it; an elephant could drown in it.” If you think you have read and understood Saint John’s Gospel, go back and start over.

One major theme of the Gospel is the challenge of faith. In today’s gospel a royal official approaches Jesus, begging him to come and heal his son. Jesus seems unmoved by the appeal, and even angry that this ruler of the people should demand something of him. He replies sharply, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

Throughout John’s gospel our dear, friendly and approachable Jesus confronts and challenges. This is a story of encounter, if not crisis. In fact we should not read this gospel looking for the Jesus' personality. Saint John has better things to do than describe the Messiah in terms of 21st marketing; he is not selling a well-packaged product. He is demanding faith.

That’s what Jesus wants of this royal official and that’s what he gets. The middle management bureaucrat might have turned in a huff and went home. He would not be the last to be put off by Jesus demands. In John 6, we’ll see a whole crowd of people walk away.

However, this fellow abandons his royal prerogatives and begs Jesus in all humility, "Sir, come down before my child dies.”

With that the Most Humble Lord, who has stooped down from heaven to save his people, gives the word of healing, “You may go, your son will live.”

The father of a dying child – no longer described as a royal official but as “a man” -- hears, accepts and believes Jesus’ word. He needs no further proof. There is no wave of the magic wand, no incantation of mystic words. There is only a word of command. It is accomplished.

The answer to prayer can only be spoken from one humble person to another, from Jesus who, like a sacrificial lamb is led to slaughter without complaint, to a man who has stripped off every entitlement and asked for mercy as a helpless parent who loves his child.

“The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.” Our life is built on the Word of God. There will always be skeptics who want something more than a word from God. They would put God to the test as if they are superior to God, as if they can judge the Judge. Their arrogance will have no satisfaction and that is their doom.

Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:17)  

As we prepare for Holy Week and Easter, let us purify our intentions, choosing once again to see and accept in God's goodness.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.