Thursday of Epiphany 3: Words Build Worlds

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Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.

Jesus need not be present; His Word will carry the authority of His presence. The same theme comes up when Jesus heals the nobleman’s son in the Gospel of John, and it’s a necessary point to make in a Church where Jesus’ localized presence cannot obviously be everywhere at one. By “localized” I mean, “in the regular sense.” Of course, Christ is localized mystically, in the non-regular sense, through the Sacraments and in the Church.

And that mystical presence is sort of what we’re seeing in the Gospel for today. The mystical world is the world of faith, of not seeing but yet believing. Jesus recognizes the greatness of this faith, because in reality, it’s the only way faith can be once Jesus ascended! A non-great faith today would say, “Where is God? I don’t see Him or experience His works, therefore He cannot be present here. Unless I see signs and wonders, I will not believe.”

A great faith says, “I’m not so sure we could bear the presence of God in our fallen world anyways. I know what happened at Mount Sinai and even with Jesus I know what happened at the transfiguration. Such a presence of Jesus in my house…well, I’m not worthy of that. Therefore, if Jesus’ Word is present among us, that is just as effective and powerful as if Jesus Himself were here. In fact, the preaching of His Word carries with it the authority of Jesus as if He Himself is there. He is mystically present!”

At this point in Epiphany, we seem to be transitioning from Jesus’ manifestation through signs and wonders to His manifestation by His Word. The last Sunday of Epiphany, Transfiguration, really seals the point. The Father, overshadowing the witnesses of the Old Testament, the witnesses of the New Testament, and Jesus, directs our attention to Jesus and says, “Listen to Him.”

All the manifesting of Jesus’ divinity by His signs and wonders might cleanse a leper for a time, or give a wedding party some good wine for a time, but everything is moving in a certain direction, toward the Word of God as the foundation of the Church. In Pre-Lent as well, coming up in a few weeks, we get that Parable of the Sower, all about God’s Word.

It’s definitely a thing.

Last devotion we pondered how the will of God generates His Word which founds the world, both the first world and the new creation, the Church. “I am willing” Jesus said, generating, well, everything. But arising from that will of God is the Word, which is the true foundation of the new creation.

God’s Word creates worlds. This the centurion understood. Even as his word establishes the “cosmic architecture” in which war-fighting can properly happen, so can Jesus’ Word do the same thing for him, creating a “cosmic architecture” in which healing happens. Great faith opens the door into this cosmic architecture.

That’s why great faith is Church faith. To enter into the Church is to enter into a new creation arising from Christ’s Word. It’s a place where a superior form of healing happens, the healing of our souls, as well as the hope of a transfiguration of the mystical world of the Church into the real world itself, as the fallen one dissolves away.

Great faith is blessed faith, in the sense that Jesus told Thomas, that, blessed are those who do not see and yet believe. Great faith receives from the Holy Spirit the vision of the world Christ currently inhabits, for as Jesus said, the Holy Spirit takes what Jesus possesses and declares it to us. Yes, declares it to us. Again, it’s the Word that creates that vision.

The liturgical arrangement of the Church is the manifestation of that faith and vision, a real architecture arising from the cosmic architecture of the Word.

This was the home the centurion returned to. Christ wasn’t locally there, but His Word had created a new realm in his house. It was a type of the Church. What sort of realm is created, when our own homes are filled with the Word of Christ, received by the sort of great faith the centurion had?

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