Friends, our Gospel today tells of Jesus healing a royal official’s son. The official asked him to heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” But the royal official persisted. And Jesus told him his son would live. The man believed Jesus, and his son recovered.
Theologian Paul Tillich said that “faith” is the most misunderstood word in the religious vocabulary. And this is a tragedy, for faith stands at the very heart of the program; it is the sine qua non of the Christian thing. What is it? The opening line of Hebrews 11 has the right definition: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.”
Faith is a straining ahead toward those things that are, at best, dimly glimpsed. But notice, please, that it is not a craven, hand-wringing, unsure business. It is “confident” and full of “conviction.” Think of the great figures of faith, from Abraham to John Paul II: they are anything but shaky, indefinite, questioning people. Like the royal official, they are clear, focused, assured.