Today’s reading from the Gospel of St. John offers us the second sign of Jesus for consideration. In Cana of Galilee, where he had already changed water into wine and where his disciples began to believe in him, he is now approached by a royal official who begs him to come to his home where his son was near death.
“Jesus said to him, ‘You may go; your son will live. The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While he 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” (John 4:50-53).
If you consider the two signs that Jesus performs in Cana as “bookends,” we see that there is a definite pattern developing. Jesus is being accepted in the area north of Jerusalem (Capernaum and Cana of Galilee) and even in Samaria. However, while he was in Jerusalem, he did not find anyone who believed in him. The signs performed in Cana and Samaria happen in broad daylight. The time spent in Jerusalem is characterized by darkness as when Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dead of night.
These events all take place within the first four chapters of the Gospel, but already we are able to see the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities, between life and death, between light and darkness. As John wrote in the Prologue to the Gospel: “All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:3-5).
We have made it half way through our Lenten journey and are approaching the Paschal Triduum. One of the liturgical aspects of that celebration recalls the struggle between light and darkness in a graphic and powerful way. The Liturgy of Holy Saturday begins in total darkness. The presider lights a new flame struck from flint and from this flame lights the Paschal Candle, a symbolic representation of Jesus in our midst. As that light is dispersed among the faithful gathered to celebrate the resurrection, our churches and chapels will gradually become brighter and brighter until we are bathed in the brilliant light of faith at the moment we recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises.
Throughout our lives, we are called to make the light of our baptism burn brightly in order to illuminate the world and to expose the deeds of darkness. We all know that from time to time we fail and allow the light of faith to falter through sin. It is for this reason that the Church suggests that we make an effort to confess our sins during this Season, to expose that which done in darkness to the light of our salvation in Jesus Christ.
At the same time, let us pray for all those who will approach the Sacrament of Penance during this time that they will be met by God’s gracious mercy rather than any sense of condemnation.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator