The Gospel of John is a Gospel of signs. John recalls the signs that Our Lord performed in order to encourage people to believe in him. The first sign was the wedding feast at Cana where Jesus changed water to wine. This sign was already starting to bear fruit: as today’s Gospel recalls, when Our Lord passes through Cana again, a royal official already knows his reputation and seeks him out to heal his terminally ill child.
Today’s First Reading reminds us that one of the signs to which we can look forward is the end of sorrow and the blessing of longevity; it is a freedom from illness and the sorrow that ensues from it. The royal official today is seeking a healing, but still expects a process to be followed when he approaches Jesus. Perhaps he was rationalizing what Our Lord could do and how, which is why he asked him to come down to Capernaum and heal his son; he thought he was on a time table, based on his son’s worsening condition. So Our Lord, in a sense, asked him for a sign of faith and trust by chiding him and then telling him his son would live. The royal official knew that if it wasn’t true his boy could very well be dead by the time he returned home. So John recalls that the man believed and headed back home; he really had no sign to go on other than the first sign and Jesus’s word. It was a long journey (around 25 miles), and servants met him along the way to tell him his son had recovered. It was at the exact hour Jesus said his son would live. This was the second sign in John’s Gospel: with a few words Our Lord healed a dying boy who wasn’t even present.
We pray for miracles, and we should, but even in praying for them we have an opportunity to practice faith and trust by not insisting on the ways and means. Our Lord knows what we need before we ask, but we should ask. He may stretch our faith and trust a little, but if we trust in him, everything will work out. We also know miracles don’t always happen in this lifetime, but today’s First Reading reminds us that it is not a matter of “if,” but, rather of “when.” If the miracle doesn’t happen here, it will happen in eternity, thanks to Our Lord.
Readings: Isaiah 65:17–21; Psalm 30:2, 4–6, 11–12a, 13b; John 4:43–54.