“So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.”
We are continuing our study of John’s Gospel and here is the situation: Jesus says that the fruit of the Kingdom, fruit that he described to the Samaritan woman as joy, peace, happiness, and spiritual worship — that fruit begins with the prevenient grace of God, that is the grace of God that precedes us. Remember this, where Jesus finds a person with a receptive heart he says the seed of eternal life has already been planted and growing in that person’s life. But clearly the planting, the watering, and the reaping requires workers, other people are made instrument of that grace. Therefore it is the case that most of the time ordinarily speaking the one who reaps has entered at the end of a very long season of labor and growth. That was the case with his disciples that day. Jesus addressed his disciples by the Well on this very issue and he said this:
“And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”
Jesus was speaking about the Samaritans who were coming to him out of the village. The Gospel for Septuagesima was our Lord’s parable in the Gospel of Matthew in which the workers who had labored only one hour were paid the same as those who had labored the whole day. And do not forget that behind those who labored the whole day were those who had labored the whole season, planting, weeding, and watering for months. Jesus’s disciples, and by application all of us, are like those who had labored only one hour in Matthew’s parable and for them the ripened fruit was falling right into their hands. The outcome that Jesus presents poetically to his disciples is one in which his disciples grow into greater self-reflection, self-knowledge whose understand that the sowers, and those who water and weed, as well as those who reap are co-workers with God. Today the whole matter is reversed with the Gospel for Sexagesima as our focus is not upon the workers but the fruit itself. The focus is not upon the work of the Church, but rather upon what Jesus calls the good ground, which he says is an “honest and good heart” of a person who receives his life giving word and patiently waits for the harvest. But as we move along through the Gospel we will see that the harvest Jesus has in mind, the fruit of an “honest and good heart” that receives the Word of the Father is what we call the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. By faith, we believe on Jesus the Word of the Father made flesh, true God and true man and all that he has revealed to the Holy Catholic Church. By hope our desires are anchored in God’s finality for our life and his finality for the life of the whole creation. By charity, we love God above all things and we love our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. The very visible fruit of the Incarnation, of the love of God, as well as God’s finality for the creation is narrative of the Fourth Gospel. But lets get back to the action of chapter four.
We learn that a large number of Samaritans of the village next to Jacob’s Well came to believe Jesus to be the Saviour of the World. The title Saviour of the World is to be distinguished from the title Messiah. The Messiah is specifically Jewish and at this point in the narrative and certainly for the Samaritans and for the Jews, the Messiah not equivalent to the Saviour of the World because the Messiah is the Saviour of the Jews. The title Saviour of the World enlarges one’s horizon of God’s love far beyond anyone in this story with the exception of Jesus himself and possibly our Lady and John the Baptist. Many of the Samaritan villagers believed on Jesus because of the testimony of Woman and then many others villagers believed on him because of what he taught them over a two day period when he and his disciples presumably stay there as guests. And then Jesus and his disciples left Samaria and they went into Cana of Galilee where he made water into wine but he did not linger because he and his disciples return to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. In the narrative world Jesus is heading for a major confrontation with the Jews in Jerusalem in which his personal identity will be the central issue and we already have the inside scoop on that. We know from the very first sentence of the Gospel that Jesus is God Almighty and so we have a ringside seat as the high and mighty leaders like Nicodemus not only make fools out of themselves, but more and more their hatred is unveiled, their hatred of God. But first Jesus will perform two miracles. The first one, coming up right now, is the healing of a nobleman’s son. He performed his second miracle in Jerusalem when he heals the paralytic on the Sabbath at the pool called Bethesda. It will take us a while to get there so lets begin with the nobleman’s son.
The news that Jesus the miracle worker had come from Judaea (notice they entirely skip over his stay in Samaria) back to Cana reaches a “Basilikos,” a man who possessed socially recognized dignity through his office as a servant to a king and in this case the king would have been Herod Antipas the Tetrarch of Galilee. His son is dying. The man lived in Capernaum and he traveled to Cana where Jesus was in order to beg him to come and heal his obviously beloved son. Without moving from where he was Jesus healed the man’s son by speaking a word. Just as God spoke creation into existence, Jesus speaks the word of life, “Thy son liveth.” The Fourth Gospel says that the Nobleman of Capernaum believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and he did what Jesus told him to do which was to go back home. Three times in this little narrative of a couple of hundred words the phrase “your son liveth” is repeated. And each time the nobleman’s faith in Jesus is confirmed and finally the narrative ends with the nobleman’s faith spreading like a good infection to his whole family. That is of course reminiscent of the faith of the Samaritan woman whose faith spreads to her village. In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis speaks to how the virtuous life as well a bad life spreads from person to person by form of contact:
“Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection, if you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”
The lesson of the narrative is clear. The Samaritan Woman and the Nobleman of Capernaum believed on Jesus and their belief in Jesus is what Lewis would have called catching “a kind of infection,” a very good infection. And they took that gift back to the people who mean most to them and they too came to believe in Jesus. Once again compare the Samaritan Woman and the Nobleman of Capernaum to Nicodemus the Pharisee from Jerusalem. It is Jerusalem that Jesus refers to when upon leaving the Samaritans “that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.” Jerusalem was his own country, the home of the Messiah, the City of David, the city that killed the prophets and Nicodemus is the representative man of Jerusalem and we shall see in chapter five how they treat the great Prophet like unto Moses. Even the heretical Samaritans and servants of Herod Antipas are clothed in the Heavenly Virtues, the garments of children of Abraham, while the sons of the Torah have covered themselves with shame and death.
We are about to enter Lent with a great band Catholics all over the world and travel with Jesus to the City of David where he died for our sins. And just as he fasted forty day when he began his mission, the Church is calling us to discipline our lives, to present our selves, our souls and our bodies as one living sacrifice. Now if we collect the three narratives we have looked at over the last three weeks about reaping and sowing (one from John chapter four, and the Gospels for Septuagesima & Sexagesima) the Saviour of the World instructs us that from start to finish, working at any stage in the vineyard or the wheat field, we all become co-workers with God. Furthermore the seed of the Word of God finding good ground will flourish beyond what we may ordinarily expect: one seed will died and bring into being thousands of seeds. Grapes from the vineyard are trodden down and their blood mingled into one drink and many grains of wheat are ground down and become one in a loaf of bread. Analogously the Church’s calls us to present our selves, our souls, and our bodies to be made one sacrifice; one sacrifice that joins ourselves, our souls and our bodies to the Woman of Samaria and her village, one sacrifice that joins our selves, our souls, and our bodies to the Nobleman of Capernaum and his whole family; one sacrifice that is taken up into Jesus’ sacrifice for the life of the whole world.