Mar 28, 2022: Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

1st Reading – Isaiah 65:17-21

Thus says the LORD:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create;
for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying;
no longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime;
He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Today’s first reading comes from the end of the Book of Isaiah, the last two chapters of which direct us to look forward to a world that will ultimately be renewed by God. After the judgment of God at the end of time, messianic peace will be established. The principal theme is a vision of a happy future.

Thus says the LORD: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;

A clear and succinct description of the new state of affairs at the end of time. Divine power is inexhaustible; the same God that created one heaven and earth can create another.

This wording became very influential in Jewish religious thinking as can be seen from apocryphal texts (2 Ezra 6:16), and even more so in Christian tradition:

  • In the Revelation to John, these are the opening words of the vision about the definitive and full establishment of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:1-22:5).
  • The Second Letter of Peter urges the faithful to transform this world in preparation for the coming of “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
  • In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes how it will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.

In light of this amazing renewal, the hardships and the troubles of the past will be forgotten.

Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.

Jerusalem will not only rejoice but be rejoiced in.

No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying;

Those that have sorrowed with Jerusalem will rejoice with her.

no longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; he dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.

The new creation is described with apocalyptic exuberance. Untimely deaths by the sword or sickness shall be no more.

They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

The people will have security and material prosperity; there will be a new enjoyment of the comforts of life.

When Jerusalem was under threat, the people’s safety and security were always very uncertain. Enemy invasions resulted in foreigners inhabiting the houses they built and eating the fruit of the trees which they planted. Now it shall be otherwise.

Psalm 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11-12a, 13b

R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Today’s responsorial psalm is from Psalm 30, a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from the peril of death, the netherworld, the pit.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.

The psalmist has been delivered from some kind of near-death experience. It might have been illness, depression, or any serious misfortune that can threaten life itself. Whatever it might have been, the danger is now past; God intervened and saved the petitioner.

The word translated as “netherworld” is Sheol, the shadowy underworld residence of the spirits of the dead, here used as a metaphor for near-death.

In addition to the actual calamity, the psalmist was also concerned with enemies who would take delight in the misfortune. God preserved the psalmist from this insult as well.

Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.

The psalmist next turns to the congregation of believers and calls on them to praise God.

For his anger lasts but a moment; a lifetime, his good will. At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.

The prayer’s range of focus is extended by noticing how God acts: his favor far exceeds his anger.

Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me; O LORD, be my helper.

The psalmist turns again in prayer to God, pleading for mercy (“have pity on me”) and for grace to help in his time of need (“be my helper”).

You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

In due time, God delivered the psalmist out of his troubles and restored him to his former prosperity; his prayers were answered. Regardless of the nature of or reason for the misfortune, God can be trusted to come to the aid of one who cries for help.

The image of his mourning being turned into dancing reflects a change in the external expression (probably in a liturgical context) of his inward state. He is now experiencing the joy that accompanies praise.

For this, the psalmist pledges, he will be forever grateful.

Gospel – John 4:43-54

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man 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.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.

Today we begin a two-week study of the gospel of John.

This passage describes Jesus’ arrival in Cana in Galilee and the performance of his second miracle. It introduces a theme of the life-giving word of Jesus, a theme that runs throughout John’s gospel.

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place.

Interestingly, this quote appears in all four gospels (Mark 6:4, Luke 4:24, Matthew 13:57). This saying finds parallels in other literature, especially Jewish and Greek, but without reference to a prophet. Comparing himself to previous Hebrew prophets whom the people rejected, Jesus hints at his own eventual rejection by the nation especially in view of the dishonor his own relatives (Mark 3:21) and townspeople had shown him (Mark 4:1-3).

When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast.

John 2:23 tells us: “While [Jesus] was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.”

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.

A reference to Jesus’ first miracle (John 2:1-11).

Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death.

A royal official, probably in the service of Herod Antipas, approaches Jesus and asks him to heal his son. It’s telling that this powerful man travels the 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana in order to seek out Jesus himself, instead of sending a servant to request Jesus to appear before him, which would have been the usual protocol. Despite his position, he begs Jesus for help.

Note also the official’s faith: he believed that Jesus could heal his son, despite the likelihood that he had already been seen by the best physicians.

This miracle is recounted only in John’s gospel.

Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

Jesus seems to be addressing the people of Galilee more than the royal official.

Knowing their hearts, he reproves them. The people had heard credible reports of his miracles, but they would not believe unless they saw them with their own eyes. If they truly believed, they would know that Jesus was at minimum a prophet from God, and would have sought out his teaching — instead, they were more inclined to watch him perform miracles, almost as a form of entertainment.

Jesus asks people to have a strong, committed faith which, though it may draw support from miracles, does not require them.

The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

In spite of Jesus’ apparent coldness, the man respectfully perseveres in his request.

Note that while the man is confident that Jesus can heal his son, his request for Jesus to “come down” to Capernaum exposes an assumption that he could not do so at a distance. He expects Jesus to cure him, but only by physical contact or at least in his immediate presence.

Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”

Jesus likes the man’s perseverance and humility; he rewards his faith.

The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.

The man has no evidence that the healing has occurred or will occur, and yet he believes.

While the man 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,” 

In addition to the miracle itself, Jesus also demonstrates his divine power by performing the healing so effortlessly, and from a distance. Nothing is said, nothing is done, and nothing is ordered to be done; Christ merely asserts that it will happen, and it happens.

and he and his whole household came to believe.

The miracle is so convincing that this man and all his family became believers in Christ.

Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.

This final comment links the entire episode to Jesus’ first miracle, which was also effected by his mere word.

John’s gospel being written later than the other three gospels, this remark is likely also intended to place these two miracles earlier than many cures which the other evangelists mention to be wrought in Galilee at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40).

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