Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs: Christianity is Rooted in Reason, Rationality, and Evidence (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #27)
by John Morton
"In Hebrews, we hear that "Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see." (Heb 11:1). Faith must be, in the words of Bishop Robert Barron, “confident and full of conviction.” The faith on which Christianity is founded is not a blind faith, not a childish faith, but one that grows with seeking, with understanding, and sometimes even with questioning."
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
In the Old Testament reading today, we hear of the great joy and blessings that are given to those that remain faithful to God, and the judgment due those who reject Him. Obedience is always preferred above sacrifice, but here the Jewish people choose neither. In the Gospel we hear of the second miracle Jesus performed on his travels north, from Judea back to Galilee.
Readings: Is 65:17-21 / Jn 4:43-54
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
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.
(cf. JN 4:44, 48-51)
First, we should note that Christ, much like a handful of the Lord’s prophets who came before him, is not well received by those who grew up with him, at least not at first. We have a few examples of this rejection in the Gospels, from Christ’s extended family for example.
This makes sense when we consider that the pride and envy of people will often blind them to the truth, especially in regards to those closest to them. In this case, that this man who they grew up with, played with, and knew so well claimed to be their Messiah and Savior didn't add up.
We find the same occurring with those closest to us, who are often the hardest people to evangelize and the most vocal opponents to conversion. Your history with them clouds their judgment when it comes to your efforts to speak a new truth, to become a new person.
In today's gospel we are moved by an example of great faith. We see a nobleman coming to Christ from a great distance in order to save his ill son. Let’s take a minute to note that he came to Christ. He didn’t send his servants and he didn’t beckon Christ to come to him, both of which a nobleman would typically do. Instead, he has great respect for Christ, so much so that he leaves the bedside of his dying son to make this journey himself.
Certainly we see the beginnings of faith here. What he doesn’t have fully yet is a strong faith. He asks Christ to come back with him, probably thinking that his miracles can’t work over great distances, or that physical touch is necessary. This makes sense, as miracles performed in the Old Testament often required some sort of physical touch.
But Christ doesn’t have any such requirements, he is not bound in such ways. Upon hearing that his son will live, he takes Christ at his word and heads back. He believes what he is told, and he is confident in the efficacy of Christ’s word. His faith continues to strengthen. Upon hearing from his servants that his son lives, he confirms that the miracle coincided with his petition to Christ. He sees that his faith is well placed, and with this new evidence he and his household become believers, become disciples of Christ.
In Hebrews, we hear that "Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see." (Heb 11:1). Faith must be, in the words of Bishop Robert Barron, “confident and full of conviction.” The faith on which Christianity is founded is not a blind faith, not a childish faith, but one that grows with seeking, with understanding, and sometimes even with questioning.
The teachings of the Church, all of them, are not irrational or without reason. In fact, they are just the opposite. The teachings of the Church are wholly reasonable, they have explanations planted in logic and rational thought. We have been given evidence in historical accounts and in the accounts of miracles, we have been given the signs we are asking for.
Yet we must still have faith in what is to come, assured of the promises made by Christ. It is reason and understanding that makes that faith persistent in the face of doubt.
John Morton is a writer, historian, and theologian from Minnesota. He founded Fully Alive with Erik Ritland in 2017. In addition to writing articles, he is also the podcast co-host and social media content strategist.
Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician. He's the lead staff writer and podcast host of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, a blog and podcast covering sports, music, and culture.