"Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed."
How does our faith in Jesus begin? What jolts us out of our self-centered, narrow lives to see the light of faith?
For many it is a crisis of some sort. It might be a breakdown of one's health, depression, anxiety or panic, the loss of a friend or spouse, death of a loved one, or a financial crisis. As the Bard said, our flesh is heir to a thousand natural shocks. At some point, I realize, "I need help. I can't manage this alone."
In today's gospel Jesus speaks of another jolt that might fall upon us, "...you may be amazed." We remember the amazement of the Roman centurion who oversaw the execution of Jesus. He exclaimed, "Truly this was the Son of God."
Here is a man who surely had seen everything. Presumably a veteran of combat with blood on his hands, apparently familiar with the stench and horror of crucifixion, with the crowds who would pelt the victim with sticks, stones and insults; he was a man with little respect for men.
But, we can suppose, a man who had made his peace with this rotten world as it is; a stoic who expected never to see beauty or wonder. On that Friday he expected nothing of this particular Jew except, perhaps, he might die sooner than usual after his scourging.
What he saw astonished him.
He saw a man in communion with his God. He saw the Lord of Heaven and Earth surrender his life to the Creator of Heaven and Earth. He saw a demonstration of pure faith in a silent God who does not appear, who sends no help and offers no consolation.
As Saint Mark tells the story, Jesus spoke only once throughout his ordeal. He said nothing to the soldiers, his enemies or his supporters. He said only,“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” To all the world it sounded like a cry of despair; to the centurion it was a prayer that could not be unheard even by an infinitely distant God. He must be the Son of God.
Our gospel readings for today and tomorrow come from John 5. This dense chapter clearly reveals the relationship of Jesus to his God despite the severe handicap of human language. This mystery is beyond words and beyond comprehension. It must be received in faith; and our response is amazement.