Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Centurions and Widows

It’s a fairly common practice, when meditating upon the scriptures, to put oneself in the story. In some narrative passages, there a multiple characters with whom we are invited to identify.

Monday’s gospel reading (Luke 7:1-10) was the healing of the Centurion’s servant. The Centurion, a gentile, recognizes the power and authority of Jesus, and makes profound statements of humility and faith: “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof . . . but say the word and let my servant be healed.” We echo these words at every mass when we say before receiving communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” [The words of the response will be changed in the new translation of the missal to further highlight the relation to the scripture passage in Luke.] In our paraphrase of the Centurion, we take on the role of both him and his servant.

The same can be said of Tuesday’s gospel (Luke 7:11-17), in which Jesus brings back to life the dead son of the widow of Nain. We are invited to see ourselves as both the widow, upon whom Christ has compassion, and the son, whose life He restores.

The Centurion, in his faith approached Christ through the elders of the Jews. We often approach Christ in the sacraments through the mediation of His Church. The widow, weeping for her dead son, is like the Church, weeping over the spiritual death of her children brought on by sin.

He wants us to be alive in the Spirit and not dead in sin. Reconciliation and new life await us in the sacraments. The only thing that He asks of us is humility and faith.

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