The bible blog follows the daily bible readings for mass of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Isaiah 65:17-21
17 For look, I am going to create new heavens and a new earth, and the past will not be remembered and will come no more to mind.
18 Rather be joyful, be glad for ever at what I am creating, for look, I am creating Jerusalem to be ‘Joy’ and my people to be ‘Gladness’.
19 I shall be joyful in Jerusalem and I shall rejoice in my people. No more will the sound of weeping be heard there, nor the sound of a shriek;
20 never again will there be an infant there who lives only a few days, nor an old man who does not run his full course; for the youngest will die at a hundred; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They will build houses and live in them, they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
A third prophet who spoke in the tradition of Isaiah, ( Ist Isaiah: Chs 1-39; 2nd Isaiah 40-55; 3rd Isaiah 56-66) worked amongst the community who had returned from Babylon. Small in number, and with a distinctive faith, they refused to recognise as Jews, the majority who had remained in Judah. It’s not clear exactly how this conflict was resolved. Although “Isaiah” knows that the people are by no means perfect, he communicates God’s promises to hearten the faithful. God is beginning a new creation in which the past will be obliterated, sorrow will cease, there will be long life for all, armies will no longer cross the land destroying houses and stealing the produce. God is not ashamed to give material gifts to his people. The vision of a golden age on earth remains seductive, even if we are finding that lots of long-lived people are not an unmixed blessing. The hope of peace, health and modest wealth is still the dream of billions of human beings but is very poorly discussed in Christian theology, leading to distortions of doctrine, such as the idea that faith will secure commercial success in business. It seems that the first Christians, because they believed the present world would soon be dissolved into God’s kingdom, left little guidance about more earthly hopes.
John 4: 43-54
When the two days were over Jesus left for Galilee.
44 He himself had declared that a prophet is not honoured in his own home town.
45 On his arrival the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival which they too had attended.
46 He went again to Cana in Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. And there was a royal official whose son was ill at Capernaum;
47 hearing that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judaea, he went and asked him to come and cure his son, as he was at the point of death.
48 Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and portents you will not believe!’
49 ‘Sir,’ answered the official, ‘come down before my child dies.’
50 ‘Go home,’ said Jesus, ‘your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus had said and went on his way home;
51 and while he was still on the way his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive.
52 He asked them when the boy had begun to recover. They replied, ‘The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.’
53 The father realised that this was exactly the time when Jesus had said, ‘Your son will live’; and he and all his household believed.
54 This new sign, the second, Jesus performed on his return from Judaea to Galilee.
John believed that Jesus was able to perform “signs” when he chose. This is not quite the picture we get from the other Gospels (Mark says Jesus was unable to perform any miracles in Nazareth), although Jesus’ power to heal is celebrated by all the gospel writers. The power to heal at a distance was considered greater than the power to heal face to face.
John tells us that Jesus could heal at a distance, but of course, the royal official is simply faced with Jesus’ assurance that the boy will recover. It is his trust in Jesus which allows him to accept Jesus’ word, and return home.
How are we to interpret this story? If we think of it as something that happened long ago, it will have no relevance for us. But if try to apply it to our own situation, we find that sometimes our children die, in spite of prayer. If we take John’s hint and see it as a sign, rather than a marvel, it must be a sign that trust in Jesus’ word conquers illness. There are two senses in which we may want to affirm that this is true:
- Trust in Jesus’ word can sustain people through illness, and even through dying.
- Trust in Jesus’ word can enhance the vocation of all medical practitioners, and human support for it.
By Jesus’ word, I mean his whole communication of God.