9th Ordinary Sunday – ROOTED IN FAITH
9th Ordinary Sunday
1Kg 8: 41-43 Gal 1: 1-2, 6-10 Lk 7: 1-10
ROOTED IN FAITH
By growing in faith, anyone can become favourable to God.
The thread that runs through all three readings is the theme of gentiles. The first reading is part of Solomon’s prayer of dedication in the newly built Jerusalem temple. He prayed that God might listen to the prayers of the gentiles. Though Solomon built the temple primarily for the Jews to worship Yahweh, he allotted a portion for the gentiles so that they too can pray to Yahweh. Later on this portion was known as ‘the Court of the Gentiles.’ In the second reading, St. Paul chastises the Galatians, a gentile group to which Paul preached the gospel of Christ, for wavering in their faith. In the gospel, Jesus appreciates the deep faith of a centurion. Let us compare the wavering attitude of the Galatians with the deep faith of the centurion.
Wavering in Faith:
Paul’s chastisement of the Galatians came in the background of their readiness to accept ‘another’ gospel. The historical background is this: Paul, after conversion, began to preach that it is faith and faith alone (in the redemptive work of Jesus) that would save a person, not following some prescribed customs and laws. Paul’s this stand has to be seen against the predominant Jewish mindset of his time. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, believed that by faithfully adhering to the laws and norms enshrined in the Torah, one could become favourable in the eyes of God. However Paul was aware that, though he had followed the laws meticulously in the first part of his life, he was still a lost person. It was in being filled by the Holy Spirit that he found his true self. So in his preaching to the gentiles including the Galatians, he stressed the need of believing in Jesus. Galatians too positively responded to Paul’s preaching.
However a few Jewish Christians in the early church, had developed a strong conviction that it is not enough to believe in Jesus, rather some of the Jewish customs and prescriptions too need to be followed. They promoted that, in order to be a follower of Jesus, one has to be circumcised (Cfr. Acts 15:1). These Jewish Christians followed wherever Paul went and preached to people that the converted gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow certain rituals of the Jews. It is the ‘another gospel’ Paul refers to. Galatians believed this too. It is this wavering stand of the Galatians St. Paul reprimanded.
Deepened in Faith:
In contrast to the wavering attitude of the Galatians, the centurion, in the gospel, is portrayed as a person of deep faith. In general, he is presented as a very good human being. First of all, he loved his servant to the extent of doing anything in order to get him healed. Secondly, though a gentile, he had a good relationship with the Jews. He had even built a synagogue for the Jews. Thirdly, he was also aware of his sinfulness to the extent he found himself unworthy to come to Jesus.
Besides all these qualities, the most important good quality he possessed was his deep faith. His words, “Say the word and let my servant be healed” express the fact that Jesus is the son of God who has power over everything. It is worth noting that he acknowledges Jesus’ power by giving a parallel from his own life. This is the thing that he communicated: ‘I have about 100 people under my authority. They are bound to obey my order. Similarly you, as the Son of God, have got power over the whole world including demons and diseases, and if you say a word, anything is possible.’ It is interesting to note that it is a gentile who, much before the disciples, recognized the divine sonship of Jesus. He did not merely see Jesus as a miracle-worker (which was the perception of the majority of his followers), but as a person having authority over everything, which belongs to God alone.
It is also fascinating to note that his faith in Jesus goes along with his humility. While acknowledging that Jesus has power over everything, he presents himself as a person who is “under authority.” Needless to say that deep faith and humility go hand in hand.
Growing in Faith:
Today we are called to introspect the depth of our faith in Jesus. We can be like the Galatians, going along with the current. They were more like a sailing vessel which is guided by the flow of wind. These people too are under the influence of the external circumstances. On the other, centurion was more like a steam boat who had developed his own conviction and charted his own course.
Harry and Henri were friends. Both of them were Catholics too. On Sundays Harry had the habit of going to play golf, while Henri would go for Sunday Mass. Invariably every Sunday, Harry would invite Henri, “Come, let us go for golf.” And the definite answer of Henri was, “No! I have to go to the Church.” Once Harry confronted Henri in this way, “Henri, I really admire your faithfulness to the Church. But one thing makes me a little perplexed. I call you almost every Sunday to play golf, because I enjoy the game. But not even once have you called me to the Church. Why? Is it because you don’t find it meaningful?” Henri, indeed, did not know what to answer.
If this is the state of our faith, then it is definitely important that we need to work on it. For many, faith means to fulfil the prescribed religious duties. And for some others, it is to believe that God exists. Well! Though faith includes all these things, it is more than that. It is that which shapes our life and our convictions.