Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 1 COR 11:17-26, 33
In giving this instruction, I do not praise the fact
that your meetings are doing more harm than good.
First of all, I hear that when you meet as a Church
there are divisions among you,
and to a degree I believe it;
there have to be factions among you
in order that also those who are approved among you
may become known.
When you meet in one place, then,
it is not to eat the Lord’s supper,
for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper,
and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.
Do you not have houses in which you can eat and drink?
Or do you show contempt for the Church of God
and make those who have nothing feel ashamed?
What can I say to you? Shall I praise you?
In this matter I do not praise you.For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my Body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my Blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
Responsorial Psalm PS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 17
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”
R. Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.
Alleluia JN 3:16
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Art: Jesus — The Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant, by Clive Uptton
Gospel LK 7:1-10
When Jesus had finished all his words to the people,
he entered Capernaum.
A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.
Jesus, the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), once marveled at the faith he found in a man. And it’s the only instance that the gospels record such a response from Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Who was this man? A rabbi? No. A disciple? Nope. A Roman soldier.
Jesus had walked down from the brow of the low mountain outside of Capernaum, his adopted home (Matthew 4:12-16). He had just delivered what would become the most famous sermon in history.
When he entered the town, he was met by a small delegation of Jewish elders. They had an urgent request. There was this Roman centurion whose servant was so sick that he was expected to die shortly. The centurion had asked these elders to go to Jesus on his behalf to see if Jesus might be willing to heal his servant.
Now, this was very unusual. Jewish leaders were not in the habit of being fond of Roman soldiers.
Feeling the obvious oddness of the request, one of the elders quickly added, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”
This was also unusual. Roman soldiers were not in the habit of being fond of Jews.
Jesus discerned the Father’s hand in this and so he set off with them to the centurion’s home. He had also just preached a couple hours earlier on the importance of loving one’s enemies. This was something to encourage.
As they neared the house another group of friends intercepted them. There was a brief huddled conference with the elders. There were hushed earnest voices. The elders seemed confused and concerned. Some observers thought the servant must have died.
Then a representative of the intercepting group stepped over to Jesus and said respectfully, “Teacher, I have a message for you from my Roman friend. He says,
Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, “Go” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.'”
Jesus’ expression turned thoughtful. He pondered the words, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” and “I too am a man under authority with soldiers under me.” He nodded his head slightly and there was just a hint of a chuckle. This man was a Roman soldier, a representative of Israel’s enemy. And yet he understood what even these Jewish elders didn’t yet grasp. It was a marvel.
He looked back at the friend and then to the elders. Then he turned and scanned his eyes over his disciples and the small crowd of people who had followed him down the mountain. Then he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).
In the gospel, we cannot but be inspired by the faith of the Centurion. He is a true model of a believer in God and in Christ. The Church even asks us all to repeat his words to the Lord at every Eucharistic celebration, “I am not worthy to have you under my roof but give the word and let my servant be cured.” Besides this centurion, it is quite significant that the bible gives us a few examples of other centurions who could inspire us in our faith life. We have the conversion of the Roman Centurion Cornelius who received the Holy Spirit even before he was baptized. (cf Acts 10) Then we have the confession of faith of the centurion at the foot of the cross. “Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mt 27:54)
What is the reason for the gospel giving us so many examples of centurions who were supposedly pagan and enemies of the Jews yet very much Christian at heart? The answer is clear. This is to provide a scandalous contrast between so called pagans, whom we think are not saved, and ourselves, so called believers and baptized Christians when in truth our hearts and minds are pagan, unconverted, selfish and inward looking. And there are many of these baptized pagans in our Christian communities!
Let us examine how the Centurion showed himself to be a real Catholic and Christian at heart.
Firstly, he was a true Christian because we read that he was a man of great compassion and love, especially for those who were suffering. He had “a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant.” He was only a servant; yet he treated him the way he would have treated his own son. For him, the servant was not a worker or a machine or a slave. The servant was a human being with feelings and needs like everyone, for food, lodging, respect, love, security, acceptance and good health. The centurion regarded him as a human being worthy of being loved as his own. Such was the great love of the centurion, like the way our Heavenly Father loves us and calls us all His children. (cf 1 Jn 3:1f)
Secondly, he was a true Catholic because his love was all embracing. Although a Roman soldier, he had deep love for the Jews as well. He did not behave like a conqueror and the Jews as prisoners or subjects. His love extended beyond the confines of his household, his own country, to all. He regarded all of them well. He even built for them a synagogue when he was not a Jew or a believer! Such was his all-embracing love for all, regardless of race, language or religion. His love was universal and this is what it means to be Catholic!
Thirdly, he was a man filled with the Holy Spirit because he exhibited the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of humility, faith, hope, tolerance, kindness, generosity and love were found in him. He was truly humble. He sincerely felt that he was not good enough to have Jesus come to his house. This was what he said to Jesus, “for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself.” He did not feel that he was worthy to even approach Jesus directly. His love for his servant was so great that he did not mind lowering himself to ask his friends to approach Jesus for help.
He was a man of great sensitivity and respect for others. He was very conscious of the rituals and customs of the Jews. Instead of doing what he liked in his position of authority and power, He was sensitive to Jesus and considerate of the culture and sentiments of the Jews. He did not wish to oblige Jesus to enter into his house because he was fully aware that Jews could not enter the house of pagans.
Most of all, he was a man of great faith in the Lord. He told the Lord, “For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.” Thus, the centurion was saying to Jesus, because of the divine authority vested on you, just say the word and it would be done. The evangelist remarked, “When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this’. And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.”
In the light of what we have said about this centurion, we can appreciate why he endeared himself not only to the Jews and the synagogue leaders but especially to Jesus. Even though he was not a believer, or a Christian, or a Jew, yet his life reflected one who knew God and had deep faith in Him. Indeed, he puts us all so-called believers of Christ to shame. We do not possess his virtues of humility, faith and display the kind of unselfish, inclusive love and compassion he had for others. Many of us behave like the early Christians during the time of St Paul in the first reading. We behave like pagan Christians because what we believe and celebrate is not how we live. We are a contradiction and a counter witness to the Lord.
In what ways are we betraying the Lord today, just like Judas at the Last Supper? The words of the institution should challenge us to examine ourselves in the way we live out the Eucharist that we celebrate. “For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed …” In what ways are we guilty of making a mockery of our faith, especially in the Holy Eucharist, which is the summit of our faith in Christ, celebrating His passion, death and resurrection.
Firstly, on the ecclesial dimension, if we are true believers of the Lord and true worshippers of the Eucharist as the Real Presence of our Lord, His body and blood, then all the more, we should have special reverence for members of His body the Church. Jesus is the Head and we are His mystical body. There can be no head without the body and there can be no body without the head because Christ and man are one. So if, like the early Church, we live a life that has no thought for our fellow brothers and sisters, then we are not truly worshipping our Lord in the Eucharist. Our brothers and sisters, baptized or otherwise, are our brothers and sisters in the Lord because they are children of God. So if we truly love the Lord in the Eucharist, then we must revere the Lord in the members of His body, the Church. Each human being is as sacred as the Eucharist we worship.
The love for the Eucharist is always very much related to our compassion and love, especially for the poor and the marginalized. We cannot worship the Eucharist apart from the community and apart from love. This was what St Paul was reprimanding the early Christians, especially those were rich and better off. Those who were labourers had to work late, and by the time they came for the Eucharistic meal, there was no more food left. Those who were rich did not bother to wait for the rest to turn up before breaking bread, or even leave some food for them. This could be the case for us as well when in our policies or decisions we do not take into consideration those who are not as fortunate as others.
Compassion and love also means sensitivity. Like the Centurion, we need to be sensitive to each other’s culture and sentiments. In each community and more so today, we need to live with each other and embrace each other’s culture. But this has to be done in a sensitive manner, taking into consideration the feelings of others. There are different levels of sensitivity where it pertains to religious preferences, culture, social status, intellectual capacity, language, etc. So we must be careful that we do not impose our culture and preferences on others; or be intolerant of them, especially those who are in the minority. Those in the minority must equally be sensitive to the larger interests of the community and hence be discreet in promoting their own culture and religious inclinations. At the end of the day, we need to exercise tolerance, patience and accommodate each other as no community is perfect.
Christians must always remember that we are a community. Parochial-mindedness is always a threat to the unity of the Church at every level. Church organizations often operate as if they are independent of the entire parish. They are only concerned about their members’ interests and the name of their organization. They do not work with other organizations and together with the parish as one body with many parts. Such factionalism is still prevalent in our churches. This is also true on the archdiocesan level where parishes function independently of the archdiocese and do not support archdiocesan programs and organizations which are meant to serve the larger interests of the entire Christian family, regardless whether it is youth, family, schools, media, migrants, administration.
Indeed, if we truly want to be Christian and live out the exemplary faith of the Centurion, we need to take the Eucharist seriously; not just as a perfunctory ritual we go through. Such an attitude towards the Eucharist cannot save us. We are called to conduct our lives in accordance with the example the Lord has set for us.
Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
Perhaps the first aspect that emerges from the reading of the passage is the situation of suffering in which the centurion finds himself. Try to hear more attentively the words that try to give light to this reality. Capernaum, a border city, a city apart, on the margins, a city where the blessings of God seem slow to arrive. The grave illness; the imminent death of a dear person.
• But we soon see that the Lord enters into this situation, coming to share in it, to live in it with his loving presence. The words in italics confirm this truth: “asking him to come”; “and Jesus went with them”; “he was only a short distance.” It is wonderful to see this movement of Jesus who moves near to him who calls him, who searches for him and who asks for salvation. This is how Jesus acts with each one of us.
• But it is also very useful to enter into contact with the figure of the centurion, who is here a bit like our master, our guide on the way of faith.
“When he heard about Jesus”. He received the announcement, he heard the good news and held it in his heart. He did not net it escape and did not close his ears to life. He remembered Jesus and now he goes in search for him.
• “He sent.” Twice does the centurion carry out his action: first sending the elders of the people to Jesus, authoritative figures, then by sending his friends. Luke uses two different verbs and this helps us to understand better that in this man something took place, a state of passage: he became more and more open to the encounter with Jesus. Sending his friends is a bit like going to Jesus himself.
“asking him to come and save.” Two beautiful verbs that explain the whole intensity of his request to Jesus. He wants Jesus to come, to be near, to enter into his poor life, to come and visit his pain. It is a declaration of love, of great faith, because it is as if he was saying: “Without you, I cannot live anymore. Come!” And he does not ask for any mere salvation, a superficial healing, as the particular verb chosen by Luke helps us to understand. In fact, here it is a traverse salvation, one that crosses the entirety of life, of the entire person, and is capable of taking a person beyond, past every obstacle, every difficulty or trial, beyond even death.
• “I am not worthy.” Luke puts these words in the mouth of the centurion twice, and these words help us to understand the great transformation that has taken place within himself. He feels unworthy, incapable, insufficient, as the two different greek terms used here indicate. Perhaps the first conquest on the road of faith with Jesus is exactly this: the discovery of our great need for Him, for his presence and the more certain knowledge that alone we can do nothing because we are poor, we are sinners. However, precisely because of this we are infinitely loved!
• “Say the word.” Here is the great leap, the great transformation in faith. The centurion now believes in a clear, serene and faithful way. While Jesus walked towards him, he was also completing his own interior journey, changing, becoming a new man. First, he welcomed the person of Jesus, then his word. For him it is the Lord as he is, his word is efficacious, true, powerful, able to do what he says. All of his doubts have crumbled; nothing remains but faith, the certain confidence in salvation, in Jesus.
• Does my prayer feel like that of the centurion, addressed to Jesus to come and save? Am I also ready to explain to the Lord my uneasiness, my need for him? Am I perhaps ashamed to present to him the sickness, the death that lives in my house, in my life? What do I need in order to fulfill this first step in trust?
• And if I open my heart in prayer, to the invocation, if I invite the Lord to come, what is the profound attitude of my heart? Is there also in me, as in the centurion, the knowledge of being unworthy, of not being sufficient solely of myself, of not being pretentious? Do I know how to place myself before the Lord with that humility that comes from love, from serene trust in Him?
• Is his Word good enough for me? Do I ever listen to it in its entirety with attention, with respect, even though, perhaps, I am not able to fully understand it?
And in this moment, what is the word that I want to hear from the mouth of the Lord for me? What do I want Him to say to me?
• The pagan centurion had such a great faith…and I, who am Christian, what faith do I have? Perhaps it is true that I must pray like this: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Your words are a lamp for my steps, Lord!
How can a youth keep his way pure?
By observing your word.
With all my heart I search for you:
do not let me deviate from your commands.
Put again into my heart your promise
that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, Lord:
teach me your decrees.
With my mouth I recount
all of the wisdom from your mouth.
On the way of your teachings is my joy,
more than all other riches.
I want to meditate on your precepts,
to consider your ways.
In your decrees is my delight,
I will not forget your word.
Tags: 1 COR 11:17-3, Capernaum, God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, I tell you not even in Israel have I found such faith, John 3:16, Lk 7:1-10, Lord I am not worthy, Luke 7:1-10, Matthew 8:5-13, Prayer and Meditation, Proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again, Psalm 40, Roman centurion, Roman soldier, September 12 2016, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life, This is my Body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.