Say But the Word

Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

Monday, September 16, 2019

Click here for readings

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.

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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:

Faith of Centurion

A Faith that Delights God

Monday, September 17, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus, in amazement, praises the faith of the centurion. What was it about this man’s faith that could astound even God?  How would my faith make Jesus feel?

faith

We are taught that faith is a gift. We can’t earn it or acquire it on our own. We can though – once we have been given it – exercise it, polish it, cherish it and share it in order to make it stronger.

What is faith exactly?

Well, first off, we get faith mixed up with a lot of things that it is not. 

Faith is not the same as religion or religious denomination. Faith transcends Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism or Islam. These are the only frameworks in which we sometimes practice our faith.

 Faith isn’t devotions, or prayers, or the formulas we pull out when we are in trouble. It is not the Prayer to St. Anthony when we can’t find our car keys. It is not the novena we say to receive a special favor. These are only practices which allow us to express our faith in human terms.

And most importantly, faith is not an ideology by which we exceptionalize and elevate ourselves, suggesting that others are less because of their choice of religious practice.

If we take a clue from today’s Gospel, we could describe faith like this:

  • It is the unshakable understanding that all Creation belongs to God, including every aspect of my life.
  • It is the trust that God wills our good in all things. 
  • It is the sure confidence that God abides with us in all circumstances.
  • It is the giving of my heart to this abiding God in a relationship of mutual love.
  • It is a life that bespeaks these confidences.

The centurion must have had this kind of faith and it delighted Jesus. Let’s pray for a faith that can do that for God!

Music: Be Still – David Kauffman