Scripture: Lectionary 443, Monday Sept 16th. I Timothy 2:1-8. Psalm 28:2.7.8-9. Luke 7:1-10:
Often we may get deeper into a Scripture passage from the New Testament by taking a look at what are called “parallel passages.” We will notice that Matthew and Luke have recorded most of the sayings of Jesus. This leads the scholars to say that they both knew of a so called “Sayings Source” and have given it the code name “Q” from the German word for Source (Quelle). Today’s selection from Luke is tantalizing for one who likes to see where did Luke obtain this story and why is it that even John has a story similar to it about a Roman soldier who is a centurion. Normally, this means someone in charge of a hundred other soldiers or a platoon as we would say. Here are the parallel passages that you may wish to consult before my reflection on the passage taken from our continuous reading of Luke in the Gospel readings for daily Mass and Sunday Masses during the C cycle of this year 2013.
Parallels to Luke 7:1-10 are found in Matthew 8:5-13 and John 4:46-54.
I am sure you were surprised to hear Jesus say, “I have never seen such faith.” He is referring to his own neighbors and friends and listeners. The passage is taken by Luke for his Church showing that the Gentile as being called to believe the Gospel preached by Jesus’ apostles and by Jesus himself. This will take place in a universal call on Pentecost as we will see in Acts 1 and 2. Soon we will learn of another Roman named Cornelius who will respond in faith to the preaching of the apostles and the influence of the Holy Spirit in his life. (Acts 10).
Jesus speaks these amazing words while referring to the centurion who has come to him seeking a cure for his servant. The emissaries or elders sent to Jesus show that the man was probable a devout person who who reveres God but is not a Jewish proselyte. He is a kind man who has even built their synagogue—maybe the one found on the ground in Capernaum made of dark basalt stones and now an object for sightseers who come to the northern and western part of the Lake of Galilee where Capernaum is situated. This village was the home of Peter and his wife where Jesus visited and cured Peter’s mother-in law.
As we follow the words of Jesus, we discover there are also words coming from the lips and heart of the unnamed Roman centurion. We now use those words just before receiving the very Word of God in our hearts at Communion at each Mass offered. We say like the centurion, “O Lord, I am not worthy that Thou should come under my roof (my home! not the roof of my mouth) but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” These liturgical words are taken from the action story of today’s Gospel and give us the full background of their origin. These words were said 2000 years ago and now are our words taken from the Gentile soldier. Scriptural words are like teachers and mentors for us in the realm of our spiritual life and our prayer life. As Jesus’ disciples we are all learners and we learn much from this particular scene which demonstrates that the Nations (Gentiles) are being addressed by the Gospel. Luke has a universalism about his Gospel that is not so evident in the other three Gospels.
The Roman centurion was a very generous man who even loved his servant in being so concerned about his welfare. The Greek words point this out about his special love for this servant. We see the beneficence (Luke 7:5) and the faith of the soldier (Luke 7:9). He was sensitive to Jesus’ too by not pressing the Lord to come into his house in order not to break one of the purity laws of the Jews. They were not permitted to enter a Gentile home.
We need to pay attention whenever someone is not named in the New Testament. It is an invitation to us to see ourselves there and named! The unnamed woman who washed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair had her action and herself kept in memory all these ages. And likewise this unnamed centurion is remembered every time we receive the precious body and blood of the Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist. How blessed we are through these two persons, one a Gentile, the other a Jewess. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.