Monday March 11, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Lent
Reading (Isaiah 65:17-21) Gospel (St. John 4:43-54)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about the cure of this little boy. Yet, at the same time, the place is something that is very important. Saint John tells us that Jesus came back and went again to Cana. Cana, of course, is the place where His first miracle was worked, where He turned the water into wine at the wedding feast. Now, back in Cana again, He works this next miracle, the second of the signs that He had performed. The changing of water into wine prefigures, of course, what was going to happen at the Last Supper where He changed the wine into His own Blood. And now this healing which takes place from the same spot prefigures the Resurrection, where a boy who is on the verge of death is suddenly brought back to life.
The Lord, however, makes very clear that it is not because of the signs and wonders that we believe. He tells that to the man, saying, "You people believe only if you see signs and wonders." But the man continued to plead with Him to come and heal his son. It was not that he was looking for a sign; it was that he had the faith that Jesus was able to heal his son.
That, too, is something we need to look at. Why is it that we believe and how deeply do we believe? Do we believe simply because of the signs and wonders that were worked? Or do we believe in the Person of Jesus Christ simply because of Who He is, and Who He has said that He is? When we hear the Word of God spoken, for instance, through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading today, we hear things like: "There will be no infant who will die after just a few days or an old man who will not round out his full lifetime, and he dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years," and our natural reaction is to scoff and say, "That is just not reality; it's not going to happen." But that is the Word of God. That is what is going to happen after God purifies the world. Do we believe that? You see, when we hear things like this our natural reaction is to not believe.
The man in the Gospel, on the other hand, when Jesus pointed out that there was a lack of faith there, that he was looking merely for something extraordinary but he did not want to believe in the word of the Lord, the man then had to look inside of himself and ask himself, "Why is it that I'm here asking this man to heal my son? Do I really believe that he will do this?" And when Jesus did not do what he asked - that is, He did not come to Capernaum with him but He simply spoke the word - the man believed and he turned around with faith and started home. Do we believe in the Word of God? Do we have that same faith that this is the word the Lord spoke, therefore, it is going to happen? That is the kind of faith we need. It is not the faith that says, "We saw the signs and wonders; we saw the works He performed in Jerusalem," or, for us, it is not a matter of saying, "We know what the Gospels say about Jesus; we've read them." That is not the point.
The point is that He is God and He has spoken. Do we believe? That is the real question. Not based on anything extraordinary - simply based on Who He is: He is God made man; He is the Savior of the world. Every single word that He speaks is truth, and in every single word He speaks there is power. Do we have the faith of this man who came to Jesus to simply say, "You have said it; I believe," and to turn around with faith and go our way? That is the kind of faith the Lord is looking for - not someone who wants signs and wonders, not someone who is looking for something extraordinary, not someone who doubts unless they see some kind of wonderful thing happen - but somebody with faith, ordinary faith of an extraordinary nature. "Extraordinary" meaning that we do not need anything extraordinary to be done, but it is simply extraordinary in our hearts that we will believe beyond doubt in every single thing that Jesus Christ has spoken.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.