Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent – The faith of the stranger
Readings: Isaiah 65:17-21; Psalms 30(29):2.4.5-6.11-12a.13b; John 4:43-54
Today’s Gospel is one those that portray something uncomfortable about Jesus’ attitude but for a serious reason. We all know about the story of Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:25-30. In that story, Jesus seems to assume that she is valueless and should not even have tried to come to seek the unattainable: having her daughter cured by a Jewish rabbi! At the end, we all know that she actually had more faith in Jesus than his fellow Jewish people. In today’s story we also hear Jesus being ‘rude’ to the poor royal official who went to him in a great spirit of respect. It is not by accident that it has just been said that the people of Galilee only came to believe in Jesus when they saw what he did in Jerusalem around the ‘Feast’. It sounds as if Jesus is assuming that the royal official is also like the others who are now following him after having seen signs.
That first approach of Jesus to those who were outside his group seems to be very rude and contemptuous. But if one considers that Jesus might want to prove something useful to his followers, then one would not stop at that first approach. Those stories where Jesus encounters strangers, who beg for him to heal their children, end by showing how their faith was much stronger than those of Jesus’ disciples. Thus, even when Jesus seems to be unfriendly and contemptuous towards the royal official, he probably wants to show to his followers, that those whom they do not expect to deserve any favours from God might actually be better believers.
Another significant thing to point out is that, just like in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman, Jesus cures the child at distance. He does not approach him as it frequently was the case: touching the lepers, applying some mud on the eyes of the blind, putting fingers in the ears of the deaf… In both cases, Jesus heals the children of the strangers without even going to them. What would that mean to us? Does it mean that non Christians still can get healed without them doing our usual Christian rituals for healing? It would be sad if we did not believe that God is capable of doing that. This is a theme that is dear to my heart as a student in Interfaith Dialogue studies. It reminds me that God works beyond the obvious expectations of the believer. It also give some hope that one day we will all understand that you find good people, who respect God everywhere, especially where we do not expect them to be.