While this Gospel story transpires after our Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman, I can’t help but read this in the context of yesterday’s gospel on the healing of the blind man.
We could say that this healing of the royal official’s son could not be more different from the healing of the beggar born blind. First of all, in today’s story, unlike yesterday’s, it was not the person in need of healing who approached Jesus to request for healing; it was the father. This is not unusual as many of the healing miracles of our Lord were performed at the request and intercession of family and friends.
Secondly, the healing granted to the royal official’s son was much more instantaneous, which is really typical of most of Jesus’ healing miracles. Yesterday’s account of the healing of the blind man is more the exception rather than the rule: The healing of the blind happened gradually and involved a more elaborate, if not tedious process of the Lord using spittle and mud and asking the beggar to wash at a nearby pool.
But the most striking difference for me is that the miracle recounted in today’s Gospel was a long-distance healing. Unlike the blind man and many others that Jesus healed, the son of the royal official never came face-to-face with Jesus. The conversation between the royal official and our Lord happened in Cana, but the son, who was fatally ill, was lying in bed all the way in Capernaum. According to biblical scholars, to get to Cana from Capernaum, people at the time of the Lord had to travel on a road that stretched for 18 miles.
Yet the distance did not keep the Lord from performing his healing. We are told that on his way home, the royal official was met by his servants who informed him that his son began to recover at approximately the same time Jesus assured him that his son would live.
I can’t help but wonder what the royal official might have been thinking or how he was feeling as he left our Lord to make his way back to his son. He was sent away without any sign that his son would actually survive; only Jesus’ word. It’s one thing to accept that in faith, but to take the long journey home without knowing, that requires something else. It would take the official quite a while before he would actually find out the fate of his son; he would need to wait. Those of us who have experienced worrying about the condition of someone dear to us know very well how agonizing the wait can be. While it took faith for the royal official to walk away, it required all his patience to wait while returning to Capernaum.
As it turns out, this healing was not just long distance, it’s also not immediately perceptible.
I have a couple of takeaways from this story: First, the assurance that distance does not keep the Lord away from us; it does not at all deter him from doing his work. And secondly, the Lord may do his work instantaneously, but sometimes it takes us a while to find out. More often than not, even if he chooses to respond to our prayers immediately, we may not as immediately perceive its effects.
We need to keep the faith, but we also need to exercise patience.