Monday, 27 March 2017

Lent Week 4 Monday

Readings: Isaiah 65:17-21; Psalm 29; John 4:43-54

Here we are told that Jesus is going down well with the Galileans. Perhaps it was only in his home town of Nazareth that he was not welcomed. But a mis-match continues between people's expectations and desires on the one hand, and the teaching and call of Jesus on the other. We find it here again. The man's request seems innocent and straightforward: his son is ill and he would like him to be healed. It is now Jesus who seems to get it wrong: 'so you will not believe unless you see signs and portents'. We can imagine the poor man saying, 'well no, actually, I just want my son to be well again'.

But Jesus receives the expression of any desire - for healing, for teaching, for more wine - as a desire for faith and seeks to lead all who approach him to the deeper level of faith. So it is with the disciples, the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, Martha and Mary, even his mother Mary. God's gift is not simply the meeting of our need. Faith is a gift that opens us beyond our need to the reality and truth of God.

So all gifts of God also have the character of 'signs and portents' because they always point beyond themselves to God who is infinite and eternal. God is not just 'our size'. He has become our size - the Word was made flesh - in order that we might grow beyond our immediate needs and basic desires. The theological virtues of faith, hope and love open us up in this way. These are the capacities or virtues of the new creature, the one who is being transformed by God's grace, the one who is being divinised.

So the court official receives the gift of his son's healing but he - and all his household - also receive the gift of faith in Jesus. From now on the liturgies of Lent focus more and more on the coming paschal mystery through which Christ not only fulfills the thirst of creation but reveals the thirst of God for creation. The fulfillment of that divine thirst is the new creation established in the Resurrection, a new heavens and a new earth, a city that is 'Joy' and a people that is 'Gladness', things beyond what the human heart can imagine, what God has prepared for those who love him.

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