This past January, a Japanese billionaire promised to give away $9 million to 1000 twitter followers (which for those of you trying to calculate that in your minds works out to $9,000 each) which they would be free to use in any way they wanted. All they had to do to enter the contest was retweet the announcement of this “contest” by midnight of January 7th (sorry if I just burst all your bubbles as you were prepping to enter yourselves and I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce the man’s name particularly with this being recorded and broadcast online) Not surprisingly, this was one of the most retweeted tweets ever with close to 4 million people joining in. That’s probably not surprising is it? There’s no cost, no risk involved… for the mere, simple push of a button you could walk away with $9,000. If it cost people something or if there was some stipulation attached to it, probably would’ve been a whole different thing.
When we hear this Gospel story [read it here] about another miraculous healing that Jesus accomplishes it’s a great story… Who doesn’t like to hear about a miraculous healing of someone who is ill, especially for a child who is sick, even more in our day and age when we’re surrounded by news of illness? Jesus as a healer – most definitely would attract a lot of fans and attention.
But that’s when it’s important to remember that the details matter. There’s a lot going on here in this passage. Some more context adds more color and dimensions to it.
The man asking for the healing of his son is a “royal official” – so he’s not one who would be accustomed to going and being in Jesus’ crowds which were more often filled with commoners. The Gospel tells us the royal official came from Capernaum to Cana. That was 15-20 miles away… so just the journey to find Jesus, to ask him – beg him to help involved a great deal of effort, time and commitment. And then, when he finally gets to Jesus, makes his request, initially it sounds like Jesus is dismissive. “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” Jesus says to the man’s request. When the man pleas again, begging Jesus to come with him, go back to his home with him and heal the son – Jesus tells him to simply “Go, your son will live.” Jesus is not coming with… You might think – don’t blame him – it’s going to be a day or two travelling… but no, that’s not why. Jesus is being intentional about why:
The Gospel simply but profoundly states “the man believed.” So unlike yesterday’s Gospel where we heard about the blind man that Jesus makes the clay, rubs it on his eyes and instantly gives the man his sight back – which is met by widespread disbelief from everyone but the guy who got cured – this time, Jesus is asking this man – who’s just walked 15-20 miles to Cana wanting Jesus to come back and do something to save his dying boy – to simply believe and to journey back once again another 15-20 miles. This time not as someone who hopes Jesus can do something, but with faith and belief that He has.
For many of us, especially in this time with “suspended public Masses” because of the health concerns, it’s been eye opening to see, to reflect on how easy our faith lives have been for so long, particularly in this area of the world. Within a 5 mile radius of where we’re broadcasting from, theres easily 5-7 Catholic Churches who all would have one maybe two daily Masses and at least 3 or 4 every weekend. The accessibility, the availability was a blessing – but for a lot of people, myself included, that reduced the demands that faith requires to the point that we could treat our prayer, our faith life like retweeting a tweet hoping we’re chosen as a winner… That out of the pile of prayers and intentions that are submitted maybe, perhaps God will answer.
For this man who’s son is dying, the seriousness of that moment made him refocus on what was most important – his love for his son and his desire for him to be made well causes him to humble himself, commit to doing whatever it would take to get to Jesus and then listening and trusting His word when He did.
The details matter: that’s faith.
Perhaps for all of us, that is one of the gifts that will emerge from this time of crisis. That the illusions of control that we have believed with a far greater faith and trust on our parts then they probably ever should have, have in a sense been removed. And we’re being called into a renewal of our faith in Jesus Christ. In our social distancing, we’ve had to work harder just for Mass. Whether it’s people making time and space at home to join us and making spiritual communions since they can’t receive Jesus in the Eucharist in person right now – or even us trying to broadcast this here -as my ipad is propped up on a soccer ball case and a pile of cards that I’m praying at each Mass doesn’t crash down. We’ve all had to work a little bit harder for this less than ideal way of celebrating Mass (which in the grand scheme of things isn’t that much – when we consider around the world, there are people who travel the distance of the royal official on a weekly basis just to attend Sunday Mass)
This nameless royal official gives us an example to go even deeper:
How are we humbling ourselves and striving to get to Jesus?
Are we going to Him with faith that He loves us, and wants to bring us fullness of life by offering us His Healing, His Forgiveness, His Love?
Are we committed to listening to Him and trusting Him with His life giving words?