Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

The joy and gladness promised in the ancient prophecies centers around relief from the greatest burden: death.  Life and living are the constant focus of revelation.  Due to our physical and animal nature, we come to equate life with the basic physical manifestations of it.  We see life as our ability to move, eating and drinking, sex, work, intensity, growth, affections, etc.  While our human life includes and requires these obvious signs, they are only the surface.  Beneath the surface are our thoughts, affections, memories, emotions, plans, hopes and dreams.  We try to protect our ability to manifest life physically because the life that lies beneath the surface seems to be at risk otherwise.

Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel by driving a wedge between what we see and what is invisible. Jesus did not take flesh to make us even more reliant on the physical, tangible world.  The purpose of the Incarnation is to help us raise our minds and hearts more easily to heaven.  Jesus makes this known explicitly to the nobleman by refusing, not to heal, but to be physically present for the healing.  The gift of faith frees us from our obsession with the physical manifestations of life.  It sets our hearts free to love the invisible God because by faith we can let go of our earthly attachments and preoccupations.  Faith reveals to us, by our welcoming of infused knowledge, the true dignity and elevation of our human life.

Quotes:

“[…] let us use an example from our own human condition: when an infant grows into a boy, and a boy into an adolescent, and an adolescent into a man and a man into an old man, the same person continues to exist throughout his succession of ages. For he remains the same man as he was, even though it can be said that he has changed a little and that the previous ages have passed away. Understanding this truth, the apostle Paul said, “for the form of this world is perishing.”9 Notice that he said “form,” not “substance.””1

“Indeed, if the Lord took care of the Israelites for the earthly things promised to them, how much more will he provide for the church, thanks to the joy that peoples have experienced in their conversion to it.”2

“It is usual for the prophets thus to mingle metaphorical and literal expressions. Yet, anyone with serious purpose and a little useful and salutary effort can discern the prophet’s spiritual sense; it is only a lazy and worldly person or one who is ignorant or uneducated who will rest content with the literal and superficial sense and refuse to penetrate the deeper meaning.”3

“We are unfortunately not well informed on the physical conditions of life in the biblical period, for example, on such matters as diet, health and sickness. Estimates of life expectancy that do not take into account the dangerous first 5 years of life are practically useless. In preindustrial societies, modern as well as ancient, probably at least one-third of babies born live died before reaching the age of 6, and it has been calculated that in peasant societies in medieval Europe life expectancy at birth was about 33 years. This may give us a very rough idea of the situation in Palestinian peasant society during the Iron Age and down into late antiquity. Now we are told that this major source of grief, the premature death of children, is to be removed in the Jerusalem of the future.”4

“The line means that one who dies at the age of one hundred will be considered to have died in boyhood. But no one will die such a premature death unless he is a sinner and therefore under a curse. The line is paradoxical; the new Jerusalem will have no sinners within it.”5

“From vs. 17 on, the poem approaches apocalyptic. The vision now comprehends not a new Zion but a new heaven and a new earth. The characteristic of the Zion in this new universe is joy; “joy” and “gladness” occur six times in vss. 18–19, and they become the new names of the city.”6

“The universe itself will be renewed: ‘The Church … will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ’ (Lumen gentium, 48)”7

“Why, then, did he hear the words “Unless you see signs and portents, you do not believe,” when he believed before he saw the sign? But recall what he was asking, and you will see that his faith was in doubt. He asked Jesus earnestly to come down and heal his son. He was asking for the physical presence of the Lord, who is nowhere absent in his spirit. He had little faith in one he thought could not heal unless he was physically present. If he had believed completely, he would have known that there was no place where God was not present. He was considerably distrustful, then, since it was not the Lord’s greatness he esteemed but his physical presence. He sought a cure for his son even though his faith was in doubt, since he believed that the one he had approached had the power to cure, and yet he thought he was not with his dying son. But the Lord whom he asked to come revealed that he was not absent from the place he was invited to. He who created everything by his will performed the cure by his command alone.”8

“By writing here “believed,” the Evangelist does not intend that he believed completely and perfectly, but means that he accepted the word without hesitation and hoped for something excellent from [Jesus].… The events that follow show clearly that the royal official had come to Christ with an imperfect faith. When he was going down, his slaves met him and reported to him his son’s recovery. He did not come back to give thanks for the miracle but asked at what time the child had recovered. When he had ascertained that it was the same hour in which the Lord had promised him the healing of the child, “Then he himself believed, along with his whole household.””9

Footnotes

  1. Jerome, COMMENTARY ON ISAIAH 18.13. Elliott, M. W. (Ed.). (2007). Isaiah 40–66 (pp. 273–274). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Isaiah 65.17.  Elliott, M. W. (Ed.). (2007). Isaiah 40–66 (p. 274). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. Augustine, CITY OF GOD 20.21.  Elliott, M. W. (Ed.). (2007). Isaiah 40–66 (p. 275). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. Blenkinsopp, J. (2008). Isaiah 56–66: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 19B, p. 288). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
  5. McKenzie, J. L. (2008). Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (Vol. 20, p. 199). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
  6. McKenzie, J. L. (2008). Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (Vol. 20, pp. 200–201). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
  7. Gavigan, J., McCarthy, B., & McGovern, T. (Eds.). (2005). Major Prophets (p. 279). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers.
  8. Gregory the Great, FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 28.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 175). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  9. Theodore of Mopsuestia, COMMENTARY ON JOHN 2.4.46–48.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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