Today’s Gospel: John 4:43–54
In 1998, my older brother was in a catastrophic motorcycle accident. For weeks we waited, wondering if he would ever walk—or even wake—again. I was in seminary in New York City at the time. To help my mother, who was incapacitated from chemotherapy (lymphoma), I flew back and forth to Indianapolis, where he was hospitalized. The desperation of those weeks following the accident was immersive; the gnawing panic and sense of suffocation felt as literal and physical as it did spiritual. I shed all shame, all self-consciousness; I begged every person I encountered to pray for my brother. A man at LaGuardia Airport, a newspaper vendor, remains photographically vivid to me. He seemed taken aback at first. For a long moment I watched him watch me, watched him take stock of what was in my eyes—please pray for my brother—before he acquiesced and prayed for me and with me. I remain grateful for that gesture. But I never want to feel that way again.
This is all to say that I can relate to this desperate father from John whose son is clinging to life. He has heard that this Jewish miracle worker is only 18 miles away, so he travels to Cana to beg Jesus to cure his boy. What is so amazing about this healing is that the father, a Gentile, does not need to witness Jesus laying hands on his son. He does not need to see the fireworks of signs and wonders; he believes. He has the courage to take Jesus at his word. Can you imagine trusting someone who had the power to save your beloved from death—trusting their word alone—and then walking away? I fear those hours of not knowing would overwhelm the power of my belief. I fear those hours of not knowing would kill me.
What are we to get out of this passage? I think there are moments when we must throw caution to the wind and trust that Jesus the Christ can work miracles—even in the absence of visible signs and wonders. In these moments, we need to get over ourselves and ask those around us for help. And if the closest soul at hand at one of these moments happens to be a stranger working behind the counter at Hudson News, so be it. Wouldn’t you pray for them in their desperation? Of course you would.
Gracious and merciful God, help me to trust that you and everyone I meet can be potential sources of prayers and healing. Help me to trust that my fellow citizens are capable of wanting what’s best for me and my family. Help me to be open to bearing another’s burdens and celebrating their joys. Let the prayers never cease. Amen.
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