Monday, March 15, 2010

I Will Praise You Lord, For You Have Rescued Me.

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Reading I
Isaiah  65:17-21
Thus says the LORD:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying;
No longer shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime;
He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.
Isaiah speaks of a coming Utopia, a totally new world full of joy and gladness. A world without pain or sadness, a world of prosperity and plenty. The dream is of a restored Jerusalem after the exile and of an even greater Messianic kingdom after that.

The reading comes from the last part of Third Isaiah, a part of the book not written by Isaiah the prophet. Chapters 65 and 66 form an apocalyptic collection and date mainly from the period after the exile in Babylon when a remnant of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem. (It is not often said but many of the exiles stayed behind in Babylon because life was quite comfortable for them there.)

In the earlier prophets, messianic happiness was foreseen as a return to paradise, to the bliss of the Garden of Eden. But in apocalyptic literature, such as we have in today’s reading, there is seen rather a complete renewal of our present world. So, we have the opening words today: “Look! I am going to create new heavens and a new earth.” The past will go into complete oblivion, never to be remembered again.

There will be a new Jerusalem. There will be a completely restored Jerusalem following the return from exile and even more so in the Messianic kingdom to come. Later on, the Book of Revelation will link the idea of a new heaven and a new earth with the “new Jerusalem” (Revelations 21:1-2).

It will be a world free of pain and sickness, no weeping or wailing, no children will die before their time and no one will live less than 100 years. We are speaking, of course, in apocalyptic language, not to be taken literally. It is a dream of better and happier times to come.

It paves the way for the coming of Jesus who, in today’s Gospel, brings healing and wholeness back to a household threatened with death. Where Jesus anticipates his later statement to Martha: “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.”

We do not expect to live lives without pain, sickness or even tragedy but what we can expect from our commitment to Jesus’ Way is to experience the peace which only he can give.

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Psalm 30
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the nether world;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
“Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.”
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
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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.
This week we begin a semi-continuous reading of John’s gospel. Today, Jesus brings the promise of new life, now and in the future. Today’s Gospel follows immediately on the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Jesus now goes back to Galilee from Samaria. In spite of what Jesus had said earlier about prophets not being welcomed in their own place, he was received well, because they had seen what Jesus had done in Jerusalem during his recent visit there. He returns to Cana, where he had performed his first sign, changing water into wine. A high official comes to ask Jesus to cure his son who is dying. Jesus’ first reaction is negative. He complains of people just looking for miracles, signs and wonders. The man ignores Jesus’ remarks and repeats his request for Jesus to come and heal his son before he dies. This, in itself, indicates the level of the man’s faith in Jesus. This is always the basic requirement for healing to take place. Jesus ignores the invitation to go to the man’s house. In the Synoptics it is the centurion who tells Jesus it is not necessary to go to his house. That was because he was a Gentile and knew that Jesus should not go there. (It is not certain if John’s account is another version of that story.) Here Jesus simply says: "Go home, your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said and set off for his home. Before he gets home the official’s servants are coming out to tell him that his son is alive and well. On further enquiries, the father learns that the fever subsided just at the moment when Jesus promised that the boy would live. It was also the moment when the man, trusting in Jesus’ word, began his journey home. John tells us that this is the second of the seven "signs" that Jesus did. Its clear message is that Jesus brings life, eternal life that begins now. In John, eternal life begins as soon as we attach ourselves in total trust to Jesus and to his Way. Lent is a good time for us to renew our pledge to walk along his Way and to ask for a deep level of faith to do so.

The seven Signs in John are:
1.The changing of water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana (2:1-11)
2.The healing of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) [Today's reading]
3.The healing of a man who is crippled at the Bethesda pool (5:1-18)
4.Feeding of the 5,000 (6:1-15)
5.Jesus walking on the water (6:16-21)
6.Healing of the man born blind (9:1-41)
7.The raising of Lazarus (11:1-44)

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'“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 was the sign/wonder that the royal official saw, which made him believe? Jesus himself. Then as now it is an encounter with Jesus - face to face or in scripture - that makes us believe.

The account of the wedding feast at Cana concludes with: 'He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.' Both these miracles are actually quite discreet. Many of those present would not even have realized that a miracle had taken place. To me, it's as though Our Lord opened the eyes of the royal official (or of his disciples at the wedding) to his glory first, with the miracle then serving to confirm that revelation. After over 2000 years, it is more than ever obvious that the greatest sign/wonder is Jesus himself.