Thursday, April 18, 2013

NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

“Confession of the Centurion” by James Tissot, 1886-1894
Note: This Sunday has not been celebrated since the project began.[1]

Catechism Links*
CCC 543-546: all are called to enter Kingdom of God
CCC 774-776: the Church as universal sacrament of salvation
CCC 2580: Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple
CCC 583-586: Jesus and the Temple

 
Readings and Commentary: [2][3]

FIRST READING: 1 Kings 8:41-43

In those days, Solomon prayed in the temple, saying,
  "To the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel,
  but comes from a distant land to honor you
  -since they will learn of your great name
  and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm-,
  when he comes and prays toward this temple,
  listen from your heavenly dwelling.
Do all that foreigner asks of you,
  that all the peoples of the earth may know your name,
  may fear you as do your people Israel,
  and may acknowledge that this temple which I have built
  is dedicated to your honor."
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Commentary on 1 Kgs 8:41-43

This passage is set within the context of Solomon’s dedication of the temple. It is found within the second of three discourses, a prayer focusing on the foreigner. In this case, it is not the resident alien referred to in Numbers 15:14ff, rather it is directed at non-Jews who are attracted to Israel’s God (e.g. Naaman, the Syrian in 2 Kings 5:1ff). The inclusive spirit of the prayer is typical of the period of exile and the period immediately following. This invitation to foreigners is perhaps the first proselytizing seen from those returning from exile.
 
CCC: 1 Kgs 8:10-61 2580
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RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 117:1,2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the good news.
  or:
R. Alleluia.

Praise the LORD, all you nations;
  glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world and tell the good news.
  or:
R. Alleluia.

For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
  and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world and tell the good news.
  or:
R. Alleluia.
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Commentary on Ps 117:1,2

“This shortest of hymns calls on the nations to acknowledge God's supremacy. The supremacy of Israel's God has been demonstrated to them by the people's secure existence, which is owed entirely to God's gracious fidelity.”[4] Using a refrain from St. Mark’s Gospel, the psalm is one of praise for the Good News of God’s salvation.

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SECOND READING: Galatians 1:1-2, 6-10

Paul, an apostle not from human beings nor through a human
    being
  but through Jesus Christ and God the Father
  who raised him from the dead,
  and all the brothers who are with me,
  to the churches of Galatia.

I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking
  the one who called you by the grace of Christ
  for a different gospel-not that there is another.
But there are some who are disturbing you
  and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven
  should preach to you a gospel
  other than the one that we preached to you,
  let that one be accursed!
As we have said before, and now I say again,
  if anyone preaches to you a gospel
  other than what you have received, let that one be accursed!

Am I now currying favor with humans or with God?
Or am I seeking to please people?
If I were still trying to please people,
  I would not be a slave of Christ.
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Commentary on Gal 1:1-2, 6-10

This reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians follows a very short introduction. Unlike other letters from St. Paul which give thanks to God for the faith of the community to which the letter is addressed, the apostle moves directly and emotionally to correct the Christians of this community, whom he had converted from paganism.

Based upon fragmentary information, it seems that shortly after St. Paul had left them, other Christian evangelists had come to them (probably from Jerusalem, possibly members of the austere Essene sect). These “Judaizers” twisted the Gospel St. Paul had taught, and attempted to impose a number of elements of Mosaic Law (including circumcision) to be adopted.

“It seems Paul was accused of subtracting circumcision from the requirements of Christian initiation in order to please the Gentiles.  Ironically, it is the Judaizers who are the real men-pleasers, since they preach circumcision in order to avoid persecution by their Jewish kinsmen (Galatians 6:12).  Paul’s willingness to preach the true gospel in the face of persecution is evidence that he seeks only the approval of God (Galatians 5:11; Acts 14:19-22)”[5]

CCC: Gal 1:1 857
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GOSPEL: Luke 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 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.
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Commentary on Lk 7:1-10
 
The story of the healing of the Centurion’s servant is used to demonstrate that even death is subject to the will of Christ. The Centurion’s speech, through the messenger, expresses this thought and communicates the humility of one who recognizes God’s authority.

The story is found also in Matthew 8:5-13 and John 4:46-53, although differing in some details. A key element of the story is the humility of the Centurion. While in St. Matthew’s Gospel he approached Christ directly, here he sends delegations to implore the help of the Lord for his slave who is “entimos” (very dear) to him. This humility resonates within our modern liturgy as we use the Centurion’s words just before receiving the Eucharist: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”(Dómine, non sum dígnus, ut íntres sub téctum méum: sed tántum dic vérbo, et sanábitur ánima méa.)


An important feature of this miracle story is the fact that Jesus was not physically present, rather he cured with a word (shared in the story of Jairus’ daughter [Luke 8:40ff] and the Syro-Pheonician Woman [Mark 7:24-30]). The faith of those believing in God’s mercy expressed through Christ was sufficient to impart the healing presence of God.

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Reflection:

The faith of the Centurion, a person not even of the Hebrew faith, in the divinity of Jesus serves as an example of the power of prayer. We note in this passage that the Centurion did not come to Jesus himself, but rather he sent messengers. Perhaps he was worried that his intrusion into the presence of one so holy might contaminate the Lord, or maybe he did not want to leave his beloved servant's side during his apparently fatal illness.

We recognize that the messenger used by the Centurion must have been convinced of the sender’s sincerity. The Lord sees into people’s hearts like we see into a pond of clear water. When he saw that the messenger was communicating a sincere faith, the healing power of Christ flowed back through that channel of faith and the servant who was ill became well.

Whatever the reason, the Centurion's plea was delivered by someone else. This encounter with Christ, through an intercessor, tells us that we do not have to be in the actual presence of the Lord if our faith in him is firm and unwavering. We pray constantly to the Father through Jesus who is our Lord and Savior. We pray, as St. Paul instructed, lifting up “holy hands” to the Lord. We also ask those whose faith has already been proven to intercede for us, like messengers standing in the presence of Christ.

Pax


*Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[1] S.S. Commemoratio
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL).  This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[3] The picture is “Confession of the Centurion” by James Tissot, 1886-1894
[4] See NAB footnote on Ps 117
[5] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. pp. 331

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