Lenten Reflections


Monday, March 7th – Jen Richard

Gospel: JN 4: 43-54

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee,
where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.



       When I was first assigned this gospel, I saw “miracle at Cana” and felt so excited. Water into wine! Christ’s first miracle! The behest of the Virgin Mother! I can write so much about that! Then I actually read the gospel and realized it was the second miracle at Cana--a much lesser known scripture and less fruitful, or so it seemed to me initially. “Why couldn’t I get the one I wanted?” I asked God. “I don’t know what to do with this.” I wanted to ask for a different reading, one that spoke to me. I, as usual, wanted to micro-manage how God’s grace manifests itself.

       In my experience, a scripture never comes into my life by accident. Deep down, I knew I needed to tough this one out. So I read the gospel. I read it again. I looked up some commentary on it. I went to a Domestic Church circle meeting with my husband where the topic just happened to be lectio divina. Our priest gave us some tips on praying with Scripture: “The gospel is the living word,” he told us. “You have to believe that God wants to speak to you through the good news.” So, I prayed to the Holy Spirit and read it again. And I just didn’t see much here. This reading just wasn’t what I wanted.

       Then, on January 17th, the gospel reading actually was the first miracle at Cana. Our deacon pointed out something I had never thought of before. Mary tells Jesus there’s no more wine. He asks, more or less, what she wants him to do about it. She simply asks him to fix it, tells the servants to do whatever he says, and departs. She doesn’t need to know how he’s going to solve the problem; she just has perfect faith that he can and will. And that’s when I saw what God wanted me to see in today’s gospel: a better way to pray--one without micromanagement.

       In today’s gospel, the royal official believes that Christ can heal his son. He also believes that he knows what that healing will look like. That’s why he urges Jesus to ride with him for Capernaum: he believes Christ must lay hands on his son in order to heal him. He doesn’t really know what Christ is saying when he hears him say, “Your son will live.”  Bushes don’t burst into flame; doves don’t appear; angels don’t start singing in the heavens. There’s no outward sign that a miracle just occurred. The official takes Christ’s words as a promise and departs, only to find that the very words of Christ were the miracle, and his son does, in fact, live.

       My heart goes out to the “royal official” whose son is dying. I can only imagine what he was experiencing as he approached Christ: his desperation, his fear, and his faith. So many times I have fervently prayed for the health of my children, knowing I am helpless and reliant on God. Those are powerful prayers. That helplessness, that reliance, that terror, these are all important prayer experiences. But I don’t think reliance on God is the only lesson in prayer this scripture offers us.

       The true lesson is that the official departs. Could I do that? Could I believe the truth when I heard Christ speak it? Would that be enough for me to ride away from him? I have doubts in myself. I don’t know if I could trust in words when I asked for action. I think I would keep begging Christ to come with me, probably to the point of angering him. I would throw myself at his feet and weep, tear at his robes and beg him. My faith would not be enough to save me or my child.  I know I would do these things because so often when I offer God a problem in prayer, I immediately tell him exactly how I want him to solve it. I want Jesus to come with me and lay hands on my son--to fix the problem the way I expect him to. I have trouble trusting when God’s answer isn’t the one I was expecting--or when I have no idea what his answer will be.

       In the first miracle, Mary doesn’t need to micromanage the changing of water into wine. She has no idea how her son will do it, but she knows he can. But of course Mary has strong faith in Christ. The royal official, a Roman, has much less reason to believe in Christ’s miracles . . . and yet he does. He lets go of his attachment to what the miracle will look like and walks away in faith. That’s a powerful thing to bring to prayer: to ask God a question with no attachment to the answer, even when the prayer sounds as impossible as changing water into wine, or as terrifying as your child laying there dying, or as frustrating as trying to listen to a gospel that doesn’t speak to you the way you think it should. God’s answer usually isn’t what we think it will be, isn’t what we want it to be, but He always answers . . . and He always provides what we need, if not what we want. In doing so, He not only answers our petitions, but He frees us from the worldly burdens of attachment and our illusion of control. He invites us to the peace of surrender. And so, this unfamiliar and “unfruitful” Gospel spoke volumes to me about my lack of faith and my abundance of attachment. Those weren’t messages I necessarily wanted to confront, but they were definitely ones I needed to see--the ones our loving God gently gave me this Lent. 

Posted by stevensm on Sunday March, 6, 2016

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