After Lent and Eastertide, today we resume the celebration of Sundays in Ordinary Time and, with it, the progressive reading of the gospel according to Luke.
Today’s gospel is about a centurion, that is a Roman military officer, a pagan, but benevolent toward the Jewish people. Usually, Jesus did not care about pagans; once he said: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24). But, more than once, he was forced to intervene in their favor, won by their faith. In this way Jesus, against his very words, shows us that he has come for the salvation of all mankind.
In the centurion’s attitude we can distinguish two aspects. Firstly, his respect toward Jesus: he does not go to him, but sends some elders of the Jews; when he learns that Jesus is coming to his home, he sends some friends to tell him not to trouble himself. He expresses this respect saying: “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.” We could dismiss this attitude as a habit of ancient times, which could never inspire our relationship with God. Nowadays we are accustomed to repeat that we can approach God with confidence; we should not be afraid of him. And yet the Church puts these words into our mouth before we approach Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” Which means that this is the right attitude we should have toward God. Those words exactly describe our real condition: we are unworthy of getting in touch with God. It is the attitude once called “fear of God.” In today’s Church nobody talks any more of the fear of God; and yet it is so important. Of course, we cannot stop there; but it is the first step: we put ourselves in the right position before God.
Jesus does not praise the centurion for his respect, but for his faith. And this is the second aspect we should consider. Where do we find the centurion’s faith in today’s gospel? In what he adds soon afterward: “Say the word and let my servant be healed.” Not only does he believe that Jesus can heal his servant, but he is even convinced that for him, to do this, a word is enough. The centurion is a practical man, accustomed to give orders and to make himself respected. So, if for him is so easy to say just a word to get something, what can prevent Jesus from healing his servant? One word is enough. Jesus is not a physician: there is no need of a home visit nor of medicines. “Say the word and let my servant be healed.” Also these words we repeat before Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” The illness of the centurion’s servant is a symbol of our spiritual sickness. Only Jesus, by just a word, can heal us.
On this Sunday we start the reading of the letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians. The Galatians were pagans living in Asia Minor, who had been converted by Paul to Christianity. After their conversion, some “Judaizers” had come, who maintained that, to be saved, the faith in Christ was not sufficient; there was need of the Jewish law with all its observances. The Apostle rejects this “new” gospel; there is only one gospel: what saves us is the faith in Christ; the Jewish law is totally useless. Whoever announces a different gospel is accursed.
Paul warns us against a recurring temptation for Christians: to go with the times, to adjust to the common mentality, to try to please people. If we do this, we break our commitment. Our only point of reference should be Christ, not the world. We belong to Christ; we should try to please him alone, because only in him we can find salvation.