Wednesday, September 19, 2007

He deserves it?

Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2007
Mass Readings:
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 7:1-10

Picture it. Jesus is preaching and teaching and traveling. Pretty normal day for Jesus and the Apostles. They enter Capernaum and Jesus is approached about healing someone. Sounds good. A Roman Centurion has a slave and he is sick. Obviously this centurion cares deeply about this person. He is so dedicated to providing for this man that he calls for the elders to go to Jesus for him and ask for a miracle. But why doesn't the centurion go himself? We will get to that in a moment.

So here come the elders. They approach Jesus and ask him to provide a miracle. However, listen to how they ask Jesus to do this.

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 he built the synagogue for us.” (emphasis added)

The religious leaders ask Jesus to do this because it is the politically astute thing to do. If Jesus heals this slave then surely the centurion will be even more generous to them! Heal a slave and get a bonus!

I always recoil a bit when I read this particular passage. The religious leaders want Jesus to heal this slave because they think the centurion "deserves" it. Would the religious leaders have gone out of their way for someone who was poor or lacked power? We don't know the answer to that question but it is an important question to ask. The religious leaders didn't ask Jesus to do this because they were concerned with the health of the slave but rather because the centurion was powerful and had been generous to the people. So. A miracle is needed and the centurion deserves to be given this?

Jesus goes with the religious leaders but I feel safe in saying that Jesus wasn't trying to score political points with the centurion. As Jesus approaches the centurions house, he is greeted with a very humble act. The centurion does not even feel worthy to have Jesus enter his house, a sign of just how respectful the centurion was of Jesus and how much he valued him. The centurion wasn't trying to score points the way the religious leaders were. There is a valuable lesson there.

Jesus is impressed by the centurion's willingness to humble himself and accept God's authority. The centurion did not place himself above others and declare himself worthy of Jesus' miracle because of his political or military power. The centurion's motives were all about his slave and getting him the care he needed. The religious leaders motives? Well, that is a different story.

How many times do each of us view ourself as so important that surely Jesus will do our bidding? Do we honestly believe that we can manipulate Jesus into doing what we want because we have an over exaggerated sense of self? There is no nation, people or individual so powerful that they can manipulate our Lord and Savior! All are deserving of Jesus' love. Power, money, influence, etc. are never, EVER influences on our Lord. Jesus gives of himself because he loves us and not because we have power.

Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before the Lord. Jesus' love is not something we deserve. Jesus' love is the greatest gift that can ever be given and our responsibility is to accept it and live it.