Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Today’s gospel recounts the second of Jesus’ signs in the Gospel of John. Most commentators refer to John’s account of the public ministry of Jesus as the “Book of Signs.” During these last two weeks leading up to Holy Week, we will hear each day from this Book of Signs in order to prepare ourselves to hear from the Book of Glory on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Praying with the stories of the seven miracles which form the core of the Book of Signs, we should be able to agree on one thing: we are in the presence of profound religious literature. John interweaves historical events with theological insight and scriptural allusion to produce stories of astonishing depth. The signs of Jesus, while not downplaying the physical reality of the miracles performed, nevertheless point beyond themselves toward what Jesus is saying about himself and about the serious of the decision his identity places before those who encounter him.
The story of the curing of a nobleman’s son recounts a “twenty mile miracle,” the distance between himself in Cana and the young boy in Capernaum. What connects those twenty miles can be summed up in one word: faith. We can hear Jesus’ exasperation as he says “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Within all of us there is a certain level of “spiritual paganism” that sees no farther than our own interest or entertainment. Because we are only interested in what is extraordinary, particularly if it is to our own advantage, we fail to understand spiritual reality. We fail to discern the identity of Jesus in the midst of our all-too-important occupations, and thus we fail to achieve that radical giving over of ourselves that faith demands. “What do you mean for me?” But Jesus nevertheless reaches down and draws us out of the darkness of spiritual paganism and into his own marvelous light. The royal official comes to faith, and it is through that faith that Jesus works his second sign.