By KATIE GROSS
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.
Most everyone knows the verse John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” We know, then, that God has saved us. The word ‘salvation,’ however, is used so frequently in the Church that we can become numb to it. We can take it for granted that God has saved us. In order to truly understand our salvation, we must realize the magnitude of our sin—then, we will come to know just how much of a gift it is to be saved. This is what today’s Mass readings can help us discover.
“Sir, come down before my child dies.” Throughout the Gospels, sin is often related to physical illness and death. This can be confusing at first.I remember the first time I ever heard the reading where Jesus commands the paralytic man to walk. All Jesus tells him is that his sins are forgiven, and then he walks? What does sin have to do with physical infirmity?While physical and spiritual infirmity may not be directly related, it often helps us to think of sin in physical terms in order to recognize its gravity.
Think: it is all too easy to forget the magnitude of our sin because sin is purely spiritual. We cannot see it or touch it, and because of this, we can begin to underestimate its destructive effects. It is much easier to see and understand physical infirmity. A person can cuss and be bitter all day long and not immediately recognize any harm. However, if a person were to get slapped for every sin he committed, he would certainly notice sin’s destructive effect through his physical nature. We must realize that we are a body and soul—just as our body can suffer harm, so can our soul suffer harm. This is how serious sin should be to us: we should realize that sin isthe “death of the soul" (CCC 403).
Furthermore, it is very difficult to admit that we are in need of salvation. Sure, one can say that he needs Jesus, but when you think of sin as spiritual death, that admittance becomes all the more serious. It would be like if someone approached you and said, “Hey, you’re wrecking your life. You don’t have any clue how to handle your business.” Now, if someone said that to me, I would probably lash out. But think! This is what it is to say we are sinners. To say I am a sinner is to admit that I do not know what is right for me—to admit that I am causing my own spiritual death. The truth is that we are all dying. We all need a Savior.
“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” Today’s Psalm says it all. The last verse says, “Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me; O LORD, be my helper. You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.” The Lord is our helper. He changes our mourning-- notice the allusion to death again-- into dancing.
The first reading also gives a beautiful image of our salvation in terms of life and death:
“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…”
When our sin is reflected as physical death in the Bible, our salvation is reflected as a cure. We know what it is to physically be ill. We know what it is like to physically be cured. We must bring this analogy to the spiritual realm—not only will it help us recognize the magnitude of our sin, but the reality of our salvation.