Lectio Divina: John 4:43-54
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God, almighty Father,
You want us not to turn to the past
to regret it and to mourn over it
but to hope in the future,
in the new earth and the new heaven.
Give us a firm faith
in Your Son Jesus Christ,
that notwithstanding the shortcomings of our time
we may have faith in the future,
which You want us to build up
with Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 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.
• Jesus had left Galilee and set forth toward Judah in order to arrive in Jerusalem on the occasion of the festival (Jn 4:45) and, passing through Samaria, He was returning again to Galilee (Jn 4:3-4). The observant Jews were forbidden to pass through Samaria, and they could not even speak with the Samaritans (Jn 4:9). When the Assyrians conquered Israel, the Jews there ended up scattered throughout the area and the Assyrians adopted the the God of Israel, Yahweh, and their practices. The Jews within Judah denied that any non-Hebrew had a right to worship Yahweh, or to worship outside of Jerusalem. Jesus did not care about these norms which prevented friendship and dialogue. He remained several days in Samaria and many people were converted (Jn 4:40). After that, He decided to return to Galilee.
• John 4:43-46ª: The return to Galilee. Even though Jesus knew that the people of Galilee had certain reservations about Him, He wished to return to His own home town. John refers to how badly Jesus was received in Nazareth of Galilee. Jesus himself had declared that “No prophet is honored in his own home town” (Lk 4:24). But now, given the evidence of what He had done in Jerusalem, the Galileans change their opinion and receive Him well. Jesus then returns to Cana where He had worked the first “sign” (Jn 2:11).
• John 4:46b-47: The petition of the court official. It is the case of a gentile. A short time before, in Samaria, Jesus had spoken with a Samaritan woman, a heretical person according to the Jews, to whom Jesus revealed His condition of Messiah (Jn 4:26). And now, in Galilee, He receives a gentile, the official of the king, who was seeking help for his sick son. Jesus does not limit Himself to help those of His race only, nor those of His own religion. He is ecumenical and receives all.
• John 4:48: Jesus’ answer to the court official. The official wanted Jesus to go with him to his house to cure his son. Jesus answered, “Unless you see signs and portents you will not believe!” A harsh and strange answer. Why does Jesus answer in this way? What was wrong with the the official’s request? What did Jesus want to accomplish through this response? Jesus wants to explain how our faith should be. The official would believe only if Jesus went with him to his house. He wanted to see Jesus curing. In general, this is the attitude that we all have. We are not aware of the deficiency of our faith. We often expect God to accomplish His work in the way we think it should be done.
• John 4:49-50: The official repeats his petition and Jesus repeats the response. In spite of Jesus’ answer, the man does not keep silence and repeats the same petition: “Sir, come down before my child dies!” Jesus continues to stand His ground. He does not respond to the petition and does not go with the man to his house and repeats the same response, but formulated in a different way: “Go home! Your son will live!” Both in the first as well as in the second response, Jesus asks for faith, much faith. He asks that the official believe that his son has already been cured. And the true miracle takes place! Without seeing any sign, nor any portent, the man believes in Jesus’ word and returns home. It could not have been easy. This is the true miracle of faith: to believe without any other guarantee, except the Word of Jesus. The ideal is to believe in the word of Jesus, even without seeing (cf. Jn 20:29).
• John 4:51-53: The result of faith in the word of Jesus. When the man was on the way home, his servants saw him and ran to meet him to tell him that his son had been cured, that he was alive. He asked them when the boy had begun to recover and discovered that it was exactly the time when Jesus had said, “Your son will live!” He was confirmed in his faith.
• John 4:54: A summary presented by John, the Evangelist. John ends by saying, “This new sign, the second, Jesus performed.” John prefers to speak of sign and not of miracle. The word sign connotes something which I see with my eyes, but only faith can make me discover its profound sense. Faith is like an X-Ray: it enables one to see what the naked eye cannot see.
4) Personal questions
• How do you live your faith? Do you have faith in God’s word or do you only believe in miracles and in perceptible experiences?
• Jesus accepts heretics and foreigners in a way that fosters conversion. How do I relate with people who are different from me? How do I foster their conversion through that relationship?
• These early cultures, like the Assyrians adopting the religion of the Hebrews over time, mixed their beliefs as they assimilated. That was probably one reason there was such resistance to outsiders among the Jews in Judah. This is true among cultures today. How should different cultures be welcomed within and into the Church, while preserving the Church’s teachings, doctrine, and culture?
5) Concluding Prayer
Make music for Yahweh,
all you who are faithful to Him,
praise His unforgettable holiness.
His anger lasts but a moment,
His favor throughout life;
In the evening come tears,
but with dawn cries of joy. (Ps 30:4-5)