Grace to you!
Today, I use the encounter between Jesus and a royal official, whose son was ill in Capernaum (Jn 4:46-54), to show how God grants healing grace despite our imperfect faith.
You recall that yesterday, we saw how the prodigal son was welcomed graciously back to the home of peace in the father’s house (Lk 15:11-32). His repentance and return to his father may not have been due to a perfect change of heart. Hunger and suffering compelled him to come back to his senses. It wasn’t so much about love for his father and family. The father wasn’t expecting him to be perfect either. Rather, the father saw his pitiable state. He noticed the change. He saw him from a distance returning home. That little change, imperfect contrition, was good enough for the father to hurry down and embrace him. He renewed him and decked him with festive clothes and a ring—a metaphor of heavenly betrothal.
We read in the Gospel of John 4:45-54 another beautiful encounter. This time, it isn’t a parable. It is the Lord himself bringing healing to a royal official’s son.
The royal official came all the way from Capernaum to see Jesus in Cana. The distance from Capernaum to Cana is about 20 miles. The royal official came, not necessarily to witness new life in Christ, but because of a need. The son was ill and dying. He wanted a miracle.
Observe the nature of his request. He wanted the Lord to come down, probably with him, and perform a healing miracle on the son (Jn 4:49). He was thinking of the old ways. Perhaps, his view about miracles was based on what their own healers, mostly magicians, do. They would come and do some rituals upon the sick for healing to occur. Some physical touches or a cleansing was the approach. Never from a distance. For him, the Lord has to come and touch the sick for healing. He was yet to know that with God, a word is sufficient. With the Lord distance isn’t a barrier to a miracle. God speaks. God’s word comes alive. It heals and it sanctifies.
Sometimes, we are like this royal official. Our faith is imperfect. We want God to work in certain ways and not others. We are trapped in the old ways. Or rather, the old ways tie us down. We forget that the promise of a new heaven and a new earth in the classic text from Isaiah (65:17-18) has already began in Christ and in his Church. We walk in the new light of the kingdom, which is perfected in heaven.
The Lord accommodates our weak faith, though. He doesn’t walk down to Capernaum with the royal official. Rather, he elevates our faith in his word. He spoke his word of healing. The man holds onto it. He begins to walk in faith in the Lord. On his faith-walk back home, he gets the news: the son was healed at the very hour Jesus has told him so. The result was even more interesting. The royal official having witnessed the miracle, was graced with the gift of complete faith. He and his household became believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 4:53).
In Christ, we receive grace and new life. We pass from the old into the new. This new life is a life of grace. The seed of the heavenly Jerusalem is planted. We live even now in small measures what we would witness in fullness in the world to come. Such a grace, the Lord gives.
May we approach the Lord this Lenten season with all our imperfections. He doesn’t want us to be perfect before he can cause the new life in us. He wants to take us as we are and mold us into new persons. Such is true virtuous living.
Praying for the grace of surrender to the renewing grace of Christ. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday, Lent, Week 4: Is 65:17-21 Jn 4:43-54]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections for the season of Lent your individual spiritual edification. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations. .