Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs
Monday, September 16, 2019
Today, in Mercy, both our readings today offer us pivotal lessons about what nourishes true leadership: faith, humility, generosity, and inclusivity.
Many of us have been blessed, especially in our young lives, with the gift of wise and loving mentors. Certainly our parents, families and teachers are among the first and most critical.
A little later, our circle of mentors widens. We look for great coaches, wise employers, guiding trainers, caring councilors, trusted friends.
Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are biblical examples of such mentorship. In them, the author is guiding young ministers in the art and science of loving, Christ-like leadership.
Key to such leadership in today’s reading is a steadfast commitment to prayer which covers, blesses and includes all people.
In our Gospel, the centurion demonstrates that he is a leader who values these virtues.
The Jews urging Jesus to visit the centurion say that he deserves Christ’s attention because “he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
My guess is that Jesus wasn’t impelled by this argument, but solely by his splancha – his merciful gut response to the man’s plea.
When the centurion enters the story, his humility is immediately evident:
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.
The miracle healing, of course, is granted but that is not the most important part of the story.
This civil leader’s acknowledgement of Christ’s sovereignty is an act of faith which serves as a model for all of us – to the extent that millennia later we echo his prayer as we prepare to receive Christ in communion.
His is a faith that places Christ at the center of all Creation, commanding the flow of grace and mercy to all creatures. That faith allows the centurion to care even for a suffering servant. It allowed him to support the worship even of a dominated people.
Timothy and Titus have shown that kind of faith. They are the next generation who will carry Christ’s legacy passed to them by Paul. He wants them to understand that humility, largeness of heart, kindness and steadfastness open the way for God’s life-giving will for all people.
Whether, in our current life state, we are leader, or protégé, or both, how do these readings help us to make a clearer way for God in the world? That’s what real leadership is all about. And, as Paul says, we learn it in prayer.
Video: a representation of Luke’s version of this Gospel story: