Ave Maria!
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost—14 October AD 2007
“He came again to Cana of Galilee, where he had made the water wine.  And there was a certain royal official whose son was lying sick at Capharnaum.”[1]

Modern Map of Palestine
Red dots denote biblical cities and towns.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - English
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - Latin

    A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Jesus had the town of Capharnaum as his base of operations in the northern country around the Sea of Galilee.  Today’s Gospel finds Him in the nearby town of Cana, in the hill country, roughly half way between Capharnaum on the north shore of the Sea, and Mount Carmel on the Mediterranean coast.  Apparently, Jesus had family or friends there, for He was invited there, together with His Mother and disciples to attend the famous wedding where He worked His first miracle.

    He was, therefore, among people who had seen Him miracles.  Not only the turning of water into wine, but as the Scripture tells us, “the Galileans received Him, having seen all that He had done in Jerusalem during the feast.”[3]  As devout Jews, they had journeyed to the holy city to observe the Passover, and had become familiar with the reputation of Jesus for His miracles and for His religious zeal.  He was also well known at Capharnaum, where He had cured Saint Peter’s mother-in-law and a number of other sick people, and demonstrated His ability to cure by forgiving the sins of a paralytic, which got the whole town stirred up.[4]

    It is for this reason—along with His divine perception of the royal official’s thoughts—that He accused the man of having little faith, and requiring “signs and wonders” for himself.

    But, yet, the official cannot have been completely without faith.  True, he was desperate to save his son, but he wouldn’t have even tried if he didn’t place at least some small belief in the powers of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps Jesus was comparing him to the Centurion who met Him at Capharnaum, and demonstrated his great faith by telling Jesus that it wasn’t even necessary for Him to come in person, “but only say the word and my servant will be healed.”[5]

    As readers of the Gospels, we sometimes benefit from the stories of those with doubts.  Saint John was inspired to write down the unbelief of the doubting Apostle, Saint Thomas.  He is the one who was not in the Upper Room on Easter Sunday night, when our Lord appeared to the Apostles for the first time after His resurrection.  He wasn’t going to believe the others that they had seen the resurrected Jesus.  He insisted that he would believe only if he could “see the print of the nails, put his finger into their place, and put his hand into Jesus side.”[6]  The next time, he was in the upper Room with the others, and Jesus insisted that he do precisely that.  Through his disbelief, we have certainty.

    In Saint Mark’s Gospel we learn a beautiful lesson from the father of a boy possessed by a devil:  “O Lord, I do believe;  help my unbelief.”[7]  That man knew enough to realize that faith is a gift of God—that we must always have His help if we are to believe fully in the things He has revealed to us.  Faith is a theological virtue that comes from divine grace.[8]  We ought to pray daily that God will give us the gift of Faith, and strengthen it in us ever more, day by day.

    From the doubts of today’s “royal official,” we also might learn that prayer can be of great value even though we are not personally present to witness its outcome.  The official learned the outcome of his prayer when he returned home—but there are prayers which are valuable even though we may never know their outcome with certainty in this life—among them are the most important prayers of all.

    We ought to pray for a happy and well provided death for ourselves and our loved ones—in the state of grace, with the comfort of the Sacraments, the plenary indulgence of the Apostolic Blessing, and the spirit of tranquility, acceptance, and anticipation.

    We ought to pray for the souls in Purgatory, especially for those most abandoned.

    We ought to pray for the conversion of sinners.  And it makes no difference whether or not we are aware of their happy fortune;  whether they be neighbors, or living on the other side of the world.

    We ought to pray for the freedom and exaltation of the Church.  Awful things have occurred during our lifetimes—we probably will not live long enough to see them rectified, but we must pray nonetheless.  Pray, especially, for good and holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

    We ought to pray for good Christian families;  loving parents who will bring forth new generations in the Faith.

    Pray also for those who govern lands and nations, often with the power of great good or great harm.

    The royal official returned home and found that his son had been cured at the very hour of his meeting with Jesus.  The Gospel tells us that, as a result, “he believed, and his whole household with him.”  That is adequate.  But shouldn’t we be more like the Centurion:  “Just say the word Lord, and” what I ask will be granted.

    There is nothing at all wrong with asking God for the practical things we need in the here and now—such prayer is an acknowledgement of our dependence on Him.  But we also must recognize “that prayer is what makes us worthy of the things which God has planned for us.”[9]  And we may have no knowledge of what those things might be—indeed, we may never know all of them in this life time.  So we ought to pray that we will be worthy of doing God’s will.  We ought to pray that God will give us the gift of Faith, so that we can humbly pray as our Lord directed: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”



[1]   John iv: 46.  (First sentence omitted from today’s Gospel reading;  iv: 46-53)

[2]   http://jesusdynasty.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/Calilee.gif

[3]   John iv: 45.

[4]   Mark i & ii,

[5]   Matthew viii: 5-13.

[6]   Cf. John xx: 24-29.

[7]   Mark ix: 13-27.

[8]   Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II, Q.110 a.4

[9]   Not my phrase, though I wish it were, but cannot, for the life of me, remember where I read it or who said it!


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