Homily for Sunday, May 29, 2016
The Reverend John Smith
We reached the mid-point of the Church year. The first half, Advent through Pentecost, is behind us. The longed-for Messiah has come and lived among us, not as a king, but as a servant, even giving his life for the salvation of the world. Now there have been many good people who have taught, given wonderful example, and died for an important cause. But the story of Jesus is different. The powers that be of Jesus' world didn't think he was good, his teaching disturbed the status quo, and his actions would lead people astray. But Jesus rose from the dead. Everything he taught and stood for was vindicated by God.
That's why we force ourselves to listen to Jesus even when he upsets our comfortable lives. We can no longer look over our shoulders to see what the world wants us to do. We look to Jesus in the Gospel these 26 weeks and try to learn what Jesus' coming among us means and then put it into practice.
Today in Luke's Gospel, Jesus travels to Capernaum. It's interesting that Capernaum means "Village of Compassion." History tells us this village of "compassion" had a strong military presence, mercenaries, working for the Roman Empire. (The Romans had no soldiers in Gallilee until after 44 AD.) One of the mercenaries, a Gentile leader of 100 men, was a friend of the Jews in Capernaum and helped them build their temple. He chose to love the Jews rather than intimidate them.
This Centurion had a servant/slave that was very dear to him. The slave was seriously ill, at the point of death. He knew Jesus' reputation, so he sends a messenger to Jesus to ask if he would heal his servant. Jesus responds and heads to the place where the slave was, but before he gets there, some friends of the Centurion come saying that he is humbled by Jesus' response and is not worthy of Jesus coming under his roof, and, doing so, he acknowledges that Jesus' authority is greater than his own, and all that is needed is a word from Jesus and the servant/slave would be healed.
To this point in Luke's Gospel, people/observers have been "amazed" at what Jesus was doing, but this time, Jesus is amazed. Jesus marvels at the faith of this Gentile Centurion, a man of power, placing his complete trust in him. We know how the story ends: the servant/slave is healed.
This is a great story for our first teaching in this "ordinary" time. When we might think that God plays favorites, we learn that God has compassion on all in our human family. This story follows directly upon Jesus' Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6 where Jesus has taught the importance of loving our enemies and acting with compassion toward everyone. In this story Jesus shows that acting compassionately is much more important than simply feeling compassion toward another.
But the greatest teaching of this story has to do with faith, humbly placing our complete trust in God to act and bring about good on our behalf, as the Centurion did. What amazed Jesus, was how a person with power, money, and all the trappings of self-sufficiency (so valued in our own time) could publically demonstrate such great faith. Jesus, who had been ministering to others, receives from another what he sees as the greatest gift of all: a person's complete faith and trust!
For me this is a great teaching at a time when we value so much our privacy and self-sufficiency. Think of it. Our world values, like the book of the same title, "Looking out for #1." The Centurion, who was #1 in his community, cared about someone with absolutely no status, and was willing, with everyone looking on, to humbly ask Jesus for help. He got the help and healing he needed for his beloved servant. God can do something when we act compassionately with faith.
I like to think of myself as self-sufficient. Right now, I really don't need anything or anyone. But this story invites me to look around and see what I really care about and see what good could come about if I humbly and completely trusted God. God has given us this Ho
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE