Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost – The Healing of the Son of the Ruler and the Conversion of His Whole Family
GOSPEL. John iv. 46-53. At that time there was a certain ruler whose son was sick at Capharnaum. He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, went to him, and prayed him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders you believe not. The ruler saith to him: Lord, come down before that my son die. Jesus saith to him: Go thy way, thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way. And as he was going down, his servants met him: and they brought word, saying that his son lived. He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. The father therefore knew that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him: Thy son liveth: and himself believed and his whole house.
The Healing of the Son of the Ruler and the Conversion of His Whole Family
This miracle took place in Cana of Galilee where Our Lord performed His first miracle of changing water into wine at the marriage-feast. There was there a local ruler who represented Herod, the king, and held authority in a country where enemies were plenty. This ruler had a very sick son who was not expected to recover; the ruler heard of the coming of Our Lord to the place and he set out in his fatherly solicitude to beg of Him to come to his home and restore his child to health. This ruler knew, of course, that Jesus could do it, but by what power he did not know; he did not know that Jesus was God Himself. But he ascribed to Him a power which was beyond that of man. “You can do it easily, you have only to say a word, and there is nothing impossible to you.”
“Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not:” here Our Lord reproved the ruler with a want of sufficient faith; he believed a little, just enough to give him courage to come from his house, and look to Jesus for a cure. This same severe reproof might apply to many Christians; they believe only what suits them. Christianity is not so much a reality as it is a custom, a condition, in which they were born. Doubt is a want of faith. What doubtful propositions and systems do these Christians make for themselves! For instance, as to hell. Many people dispute as to what hell is; they do not know, but some make it a very hot place, while others come to the horrible conclusion that there is no hell; the latter do not want to be troubled by such frightful thoughts of a future life. With them one religion is as good as another; they think that all are in error, and that all try to do a little for man, but in different ways. Fly the company of such Christians, shake off the doubts you may have imbibed, study questions which relate to your religion. St. John the Evangelist once accidentally met Corinthus, the heretic. “Corinthus, the enemy of truth, is here; let us be gone,” he said, “lest the house fall upon us.” St. Polycarp met the heretic Marcion in Rome; as they came face to face, Polycarp turned away and looked in another direction. Marcion, with bold effrontery, asked, “Do you not know me?” “Yes,” Polycarp answered, “I know you to be the first-born of the devil.”
It is not only necessary to avoid people who may make you lose your faith; you should not only love this precious gift and keep it safe in your heart, but you must also show it before the world. How can you do this? You can do it by performing many good works in the spirit of faith. We read that faith without works is dead, and works without faith have no spiritual value. Faith without works is like a body without life, and without breath. As a dead body is no longer a man, so a dead faith is no longer considered faith. A young man who knows that sin is the great evil of the world, and still continues to commit it, cannot be said to have faith. He cannot be said to have faith who knows that God punishes sin with eternal punishment, and yet still remains in sin, though he has the means to put himself in the grace of God. That youth has no faith who knows that God is everywhere, that He sees all things, even the most carefully concealed, and yet contaminates his heart by secret crimes. That young person cannot be supposed to have any faith who, knowing that Christ is ever present on our altars in church, yet behaves as if he were on the street, talking and laughing; not praying himself and disturbing others at their prayers. What is the good of believing in the Catholic Church, and living like a pagan?
My good and faithful followers, “without faith it is impossible to please God,” as St. Paul said to the Hebrews. Faith will give life to your souls and will nourish them. If you have a well-grounded, lively faith you will come out victorious from every battle with your passions and sins. You will conquer yourself and your wicked nature.
During a persecution in Japan a young Japanese gave a good example of firm faith. He was advised by his own father to deny the faith, and, refusing, he was compelled to stand without any support, his hands and feet tied firmly. At length, after two days, the tender feeling of the father for his son induced him to loose the bonds. Straightway the youth went to the church of the Jesuits, and the first food he partook of was Holy Communion. Beg of God, my dear young friends, that you may have a like faith; nourish that faith by reading spiritual books; read lives of the saints and your catechism; but above all avoid wicked books, which are written to undermine the faith of the unwary.
The ruler mentioned in the Scripture did not heed the reprimand which Our Lord gave him, but continued to pray that Our Lord should hasten lest the ruler’s son should die. Here we see the constancy of prayer. The father had a great desire to have his son healed, and while he knew Our Lord could do it, he believed that if he continued to ask his petition would be granted. Such also should be our prayers. Have a great desire to do something for the greater glory of God and for your own special benefit and then be constant in your petitions. How cold and careless our young people are at their prayers! They have no spiritual wants, and therefore they lack fervor; they realize their temporal wants more easily, and you will find they desire them more fervently. How few, therefore, are there who throw themselves before the altar of God and with sincerity and fervor say, “Lord, save my soul.” How few are there, who, knowing that they are in sin, pray with fear and trembling: “Lord, my soul is dead in Thy sight; make me live again. Thou hast delivered me before from the hands of the devil; deliver me again.” How few young people are there, who seeing the frequency with which they fall into sin, say fervently to God,
“Lord, do Thou keep my mind, my tongue and my hand from falling into sin; give me the grace to avoid the occasions of it and of those companions whom I follow so implicitly.” Very rarely are our young people in earnest in their prayers, and that is the reason that they find sin so agreeable, and follow it with such eagerness. At most they say a few “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” with such a miserable disposition that you would be ashamed to call them prayers. They speak the words of the prayers with their lips, but not with the desire that what they ask for may be granted. Will such young people grow up to be good men and women? Will they continue free from sin? By no means. Without the grace of God, it is impossible to keep from sin, and you will not receive this grace in answer to such prayers. Let us then, young and old, with real fervor raise our hearts to God, and beg especially for grace to be freed from sin.
When the ruler had again made his demand, Our Lord said, “It is not necessary that I should come down. Go thy way, thy son liveth.” The ruler believed the words of Christ, and thanking Him with reverence and gratitude, returned to Capharnaum. On the way he met messengers who had been sent to tell him that his son lived. He asked them at what hour the child became better, and they told him at the seventh hour, the same hour at which Our Lord had said, “Go, thy son liveth.” This miracle convinced the ruler that Jesus was the Son of God. When he arrived home he found every one rejoicing. He told them of his meeting with the Messias, and showed them clearly that the healing of the child was due to Him. All were convinced, and all believed.
Let me, my dear young people, make just one more remark: Why did this pagan ruler go to Our Lord? By what means were his eyes opened to the faith? It was certainly by his son’s danger. It was the grief in which he found himself. This trial, which to all appearances made him unhappy, was the cause of his joy. Had it not been for the sickness of his son he would not have thought of going to Christ; he would have remained in his unbelief, and he would not have embraced the faith. This should teach us that the misfortunes of this life, the trials which we sometimes have to undergo, are often great graces which Our Lord offers us, for these trials detach our hearts from earth, raise them to heaven, and force us to throw ourselves on the mercy of God. St. Gregory tells us, “That the evils that oppress us force us to go to God.” See that strong, healthy young man; he enjoys his youth without concern; he is off with his wicked companions, to lie about in idleness, to commit sin without remorse. God strikes him with sickness, and he is thrown on his bed, battling for his life. What a misfortune that a young man in the flower of his youth should be so stricken! Yes, it is a great misfortune in one way, but looked at in another light, it is a blessing. He sins no more; he has time to think that God has sent this affliction to make him better, and in this way he is put on the path to heaven. “A great sickness sobers the mind.” The same may be said of all other trials that come to us. Great or small, they are all graces sent to wake us up to a new life. God sends us trials because we are dear to Him. “Whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth.” St. Ignatius says, “If God makes you suffer much, it is a sign that He wants to make a great saint of you, and if you wish to become great saints, pray God that He may let you suffer much.” If you find that God sends you these trials for your sins, repent of them, and bear the suffering with resignation. If you know that you are as good as you can be, and still you suffer, thank God for it. Remember that your crown will be more beautiful when the time of your reward has come. Do not forget that God is a good father, who will not try you beyond your strength, but that He, Himself, with His great consolations, will help you bear the burden.