Monday March 7, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Lent
Reading (Isaiah 65:17-21) Gospel (St. John 4:43-54)
Our Lord in the Gospel reading today says to this man, Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe. Then as things go on, the man realizes it was at the very moment Jesus spoke to him that his son began to recover. We are told that when he saw the sign, he and his entire household believed. So it was only through the power of the sign that they believed, and that is exactly what Our Lord had told him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.
Now there is a point of being reasonable in the whole thing. Why would anyone believe if there is no evidence to believe? That is one of the things that the Messiah was supposed to do when He came into this world. He was supposed to perform miracles; He was supposed to have signs and wonders as His credentials. So that is part of why we would believe in the Lord. But that is not enough because if we look throughout history we can also see many of the saints working extraordinary signs and wonders. Now we know that it is the Lord working through them; however, if someone does not understand that, they might ascribe the signs and wonders to the particular saint himself. Recall the situation of Saint Paul when they went in and healed somebody and all the people came out; even the priests of Zeus wanted to offer sacrifice to them because they saw the signs and wonders and thought that they must be gods of some sort. So it is to be able to understand that the signs and wonders point beyond themselves to something else, that is, to the reality of who this person is, but it is to have faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. The signs and wonders can testify to Who He is, but by themselves they do not prove Who He is. We have to be able to look not only at what He did, but we have to look at what He taught, we have to look at the way that He lived, and ultimately we have to look at the end of His life if we are truly going to believe in Who He is.
This becomes critical for us because aligned with this reading the Church gave to us that reading from the prophet Isaiah this morning. In that reading we hear God saying, I am about to do something new, and He said that He is going to create a new heavens and a new earth. He talks about how people are going to live to over a hundred years and they will be thought accursed if they do not, and all these sorts of things. On the natural level, of course, that has not yet happened. But more importantly, when we come to truly believe in Who Our Lord is, we become a new creation. He has created within each one of us a new heavens and a new earth because we are going to be able to live far more than a hundred years we are going to live for eternity if we truly believe in Who He is. That is why He came. It is one thing for this little boy to be healed so that he would be able to live on in this world; it is an entirely other thing for us to be completely healed so that we can live for eternity. That is what Our Lord really came for. All that these signs and wonders do is point beyond themselves.
So we need to look and ask ourselves, Do we have the faith of this man who believed when the Lord spoke? We believe in Jesus generically, but do we have that subjective faith that really is accepting all the words of Our Lord, believing fully in the Person of Jesus Christ and Who He is so that we can be healed? Not necessarily healed of our various ailments and maladies, but healed of the most important thing that is, our sins because we want to be able to live forever, we want to be healed of that which brings eternal death. That is what Our Lord gives to us. And it is when we recognize what He has done that we need to change our lives. This man and his whole household saw what the Lord did for this little boy, and they believed in Him and they changed their lives. How much the Lord has done for us and how little we have changed.
That is what Our Lord is looking for. It is beyond the signs and wonders; it is the Person in Whom we must believe. When we recognize truly Who He is and what He does for us, then the sign and wonder that is going to be the most clear is going to be the miracle of the change of our own lives and the way that we live our lives solely for Christ so that we can be truly healed. Then a hundred years will be just a drop in the bucket because we will live for eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.