Geographical Faith

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

The incident of which we read in the Gospel for Monday of the 4th Week of Lent comes to us from the Gospel of St. John. (We will read fairly consistently from the 4th Gospel for the next ten weeks.) Jesus cures a royal official's son in Cana of Galilee. You will, no doubt, remember that in St. John's Gospel, Jesus performs seven "signs," the first and second of which take place in Cana. These two signs are really "bookends" for this section of the Gospel.

The first sign highlights the faith of the Blessed Mother who instructs the stewards at the wedding feast to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. At the end of the story, we read that because of this sign, the disciples of Jesus begin to believe in him.

This second sign involves faith in Jesus as well, this time from a royal official. Though the Gospel does not specify from which royal court the official comes, we may assume that he was a member of the court of one of the sons of Herod who had divided up the territory between them. When Jesus tells the man that his son has been healed, he returns home. On the way, his servants meet him to tell him that his son is well. This story also ends with a statement of faith as the royal official and his entire household become believers.

These two stories of people displaying or coming to faith bracket stories of unbelief. Jesus encounters a lack of faith from the Temple officials, from Nicodemus, and even from his disciples while he is in Samaria. The sacred writer is using geography to highlight the tension that comes to the fore between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. While he is in Galilee among the common folk, he is believed. While he is in Jerusalem among the Pharisees and the Temple priests, he is not believed. That tension will heighten until it reaches its climax in the narrative of the Passion and Death of Jesus.

While the stories of Jesus' activity in Galilee highlight the faith of the unlikely (Gentiles, Samaritans, and the poor and rural folk), they also focus our attention on our own faith. Truth be told, Western culture is not that divorced from the obstinacy of the chief priests and Pharisees. Like them, we highlight our differences with people of different faith and ethnicity. Like them, we espouse a law and order stance in our morality. Like them, we tend to denigrate those who do not think as we do. Yet, it is from these people that we learn of faith in Jesus. The challenge to us is to be sure that we find ourselves "in Galilee" rather than "in Jerusalem" in matters of faith.


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