"Sir," the royal official pleaded with him, "Come down before
my child dies." Jesus told him, "Return home; your son will live." The
man put his trust in the word Jesus spoke to him and started for home.
My friends, the miracle that is recounted in this morning's reading
from St. John's Gospel is also included in the Gospels according to Matthew
and Luke. In those narratives, you might recall, the story is just a bit
different because Jesus is already in the town of Capernaum and the person
who comes up to ask Jesus for help is a centurion, a Roman soldier, and
it is his servant, who is ill whom Jesus heals. Not so here. We might wonder
why it is that some of these details vary from one Gospel to another. We
remember that all of the Gospels began as an oral tradition. It was a spoken
word at first, and only later in the century were these things written
down according to the different oral traditions. Sometimes the little details
do vary. But the essence of the narrative is always the same. It is the
power of Jesus healing.
St. John, who wrote his Gospel as the last of the four, wrote it in
such a way that it is almost a text of theology. It is an interpretation
more than anything else of who Jesus is and what He did. When Jesus works
a miracle in John's Gospel it is always followed by a discourse. Jesus
speaks to the crowd about what He has done and instructs them about what
He has done.
In the second chapter of John's Gospel, we read of the first miracle
that Jesus worked at Cana in Galilee. He changed water into wine and we
think of this as a marvelous blessing of weddings. It's much more than
that because it also has to do with the eschatological vision that John
had: the end of the world and the completion of God's plan couched in terms
of a wedding, a traditional Scriptural image of those events.
When Jesus worked that miracle, He went out and taught someone: Nicodemus.
There is the long discourse with Nicodemus about being "born again of water
and the Holy Spirit". The same is true with this morning's Gospel. The
royal official's son was ill. Jesus healed him from a distance. As a matter
of fact, we happen to know from John's Gospel that He was in Cana of Galilee
again, about fifteen miles south of the city of Capernaum. It is here that
the royal official encounters Jesus, asks for a healing for his son, and
receives it. We might say, "So what? Jesus did this for this individual,
but what has this got to do with us?": Always the Scriptures are written
for our benefit twenty centuries later.
So how do we understand this and interpret it? The key is in what John
Jesus told him, "Return home; your son will live," The man put his trust
in the word Jesus spoke to him and started for home (John 4:50).
The man put his trust in the word that Jesus spoke to him. John was
very conscious of the idea of the Word. Do you remember the prologue to
John's Gospel in the first chapter?
In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was
God. . . The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1: I & 14).
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The Word of God, according to John,
is always creative. As he wrote those words, John had in mind the very
first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, and how it begins. "In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth". For John, this is the
beginning of the new creation, with Christ our Lord.
As Jesus begins a discourse in the fifth chapter following upon this
miracle, it is very evident that He is talking about His Word and about
the reaction that should come from His Word. Jesus says this:
I solemnly assure you the man who hears my word and has faith in him
who sent me possesses eternal life (John 5:24).
Later on He says:
An hour is coming, has indeed come, when the dead shall hear the voice
of the Son of God, and those who have heeded it shall live (John 5:25).
In another place in that same chapter:
An hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice
and come forth (John 5:28). Hearing the Word means that something happens
because of the Word of God. First of all, it is creative:
Then God said, "Let there be light." And there was light (Gen.1:3).
God's word is always creative. He created by a word, out of nothing. His
word also leads to salvation. Remember the Gospel of two weeks ago, where
the people let the man sick of the palsy into the house through the roof
at Jesus' feet and He says, "Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven"
And when they all murmured about that. He said, "Which is less trouble
to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Stand up and walk'" (Matt. 9ff..)?
He healed the man to show them He had the power with a word to forgive
sin. God's word is not only creative. It leads to salvation. When God speaks,
On the opposing side of all of this, we can hear what Jesus says about
those people who hear the word and nothing happens.
The Father who sent me has himself given testimony on my behalf. His
voice you have never heard. . . . (John 5:37).
Jesus equates the lack of faith with never hearing the Word of God.
When we consider what words are in our time twenty centuries later,
we know that words just tumble over us like a waterfall and sometimes we
are so inundated with words that they lose their meaning. They no longer
pack the power or the punch. Right now, leading up to the first Tuesday
of November, we hear the words of politicians. What are they to lead us
to? Belief and trust in what the person is saying? Sometimes. Mostly, we
are rather cynical about what we hear. How about the words of advertisers?
Advertisers spend millions of dollars, choosing the right words to describe
their product. We hear those words and we trust in them and we bring the
product home and it never quite lives up to those glowing promises. Our
clothes are still dingy. They aren't as bright as sunlight even though
we've used that particular detergent. But we trusted the words.
What Jesus is saying and what we have to understand is that in order
for us to come to faith, we have to hear the words and believe in them.
Then something happens. How does Jesus speak His word to us now? He is,
of course, the Word of God. He is the Word made flesh. He speaks to us
in the words of Scripture, of course. And here we find the truth. These
are not campaign slogans or the hyperbole of advertisers. This is the Word
of God. We can trust that what we hear from God's Word is true and right.
Secondly, the word of God is present to us in the Sacraments. We hear
the words of a Sacrament and we know something special is happening. As
a little infant brought to the font of Baptism and the priest pours water
on that child's forehead and says, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," we know that something special happened
at that moment to the child. Those words have power. They are creative
because this person is created as a new person in Christ and they are salvific
because this person is filled with the very life of God Himself.
We also know that the word of God is present in His Church, in His people,
in one another. Sometimes it becomes a little more difficult to discern
the truth here. But you and I, because we have been given the Holy Spirit,
are able to discern what is the truth and what is not. We listen, we hear,
and we say, "Yes, this is of God. This is the Word of God." And we follow
In our first reading this morning, Paul is describing a warrior for
Christ. He has him putting on all of this equipment:
“Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice your
breastplate, and zeal to propagate the Gospel of peace your footgear. In
all circumstances, hold faith up before you as your shield. - . Take the
helmet of salvation. . . “
The equipment is defensive. But there is one more item in that list
— "the sword of the Spirit, the word of God". Paul intends that we go on
the offensive with it. To a world that is fed lie after lie, it is only
in the Word of God that we can find joy, happiness, peace, contentment,
quietness of mind (as that beautiful opening prayer of our liturgy said
Another time Jesus was teaching the multitude. We read about it in the
sixth chapter of John's Gospel. He had just fed five thousand people in
the wilderness. He continues with a discourse about its meaning. He talks
about a new food for them.
My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. The man who feeds
on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him . . . the man
who feeds on this bread shall live forever (John 6:55ff.).
As He gave us the instruction on the Eucharist, the reaction of the
people was predictable:
After hearing his words, many of his disciples remarked, "This sort
of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously ? (John 6:60)
Jesus turned at this moment to His apostles and asked them, "Do you
want to leave me too?" Peter's response is an interesting one. He answers
Jesus at this moment with an answer not only for the apostles but for you
and me as well: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal
life" (John 6:67ff.).
The Word of God, Word made flesh, continues to be present in our midst
now; in Scripture, in Sacrament, in the Church.
Today, the Lord would speak to you as well, to each and everyone of
you, if you are open to it. He will speak to you in the silence of your
heart. The Psalmist says:
Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. . . (Ps. 95:8).
Listen to what the Lord has to say to you today in prayer. Understand
what He is saying to you. Is He drawing you closer in a relationship with
Himself? Is He speaking a word to your heart? "Abandon that habit of sin
and turn to Me'" What is He saying to you? He has something very special
to say to each and every one of you. The alternative would be unthinkable:
that the Lord is mute. No. He speaks His gentle word and it's creative;
it leads to salvation, if we harden not our hearts.
As we offer our Eucharist, listen to instances in which the Eucharistic
Prayer mentions the Word of God. Listen to the words the priest speaks.
Let them become a part of you as well. Listen. What God has in mind is
what He had in mind for that royal official's son.
The man put his trust in the word Jesus spoke to him, and he started
for home. We can put our trust in the Word and we can start for home as
well. But our home, we know, is not here. It's in heaven!
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Dunstan’s Church and Fr. Sisterman.