Monday, 7 March 2016

Signs and belief

Over the next two weeks, the weekday Eucharist Gospel readings are taken from St John's account of events leading to the passion and death of Jesus. As a  unique eyewitness to these events his testimony is important. The Gospels show how very close to Jesus John was. The story he tells gives original insight into the meaning of all that happened.

Today's passage from John 4:43-54, tells of an official whose son is mortally ill. Friends ask Jesus on his behalf to cure the boy. He probes their motives for asking when he says to them; "You will not believe unless you see signs and wonders!" His healing ministry is not intended to be a display of power to convince people to believe. Faith is an act of trust in what is ultimately unknown to us at the outset.

When the official urges him to act before it is too late, Jesus sends him away with the promise that his son will live. The man trusts him and returns home to discover that his son began to recover at the time Jesus spoke to him. His willingness to believe the promise of Jesus is as significant as the healing itself, which takes place at a distance. John speaks of it as a 'Sign' given by Jesus, something which points beyond itself to another thing or reality. 

As Jesus states to another desperate parent who comes to him in search of healing for a child in Mark 9:23, "Everything is possible for one who believes." Jesus believes that the Father will respond to his prayer, and to the faith expressed by those in deep need. This is not magic, however. The journey to healing may be long and tortuous, with setbacks, and may fail our expectations. So often in our neediness we fail to see with perspective, and it is impossible to see things as God sees them, unless God reveals them to us what is truly possible and how this may be achieved.

'"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" says the Lord.'
(Isaiah 55:8)

Prayer requires us to shed our illusions about God and ourselves. Although we are free to be creative and imaginative, expressing ourselves in prayer and worship, the less we rely on this and the more we empty ourselves and presume nothing, the more open to the reality of our Maker we can be. Reliance on the power of God's love and mercy to guide us in this 'agnostic' endeavour is all that matters.

'For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.' (Psalm 62:5)

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