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Ninth Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Kgs 8:41-43; Gal 1:1-2, 6-10; Lk 7:1-10.
1/ First Reading (1 Kgs 8:41-43): 41 “To the foreigners, likewise, who are not of your people Israel, but who come from a distant land for the sake of your name 42 since people will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house, 43 listen in heaven, the place of your enthronement. Do all that the foreigner asks of you, that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, may revere you as do your people Israel, and may know that your name has been invoked upon this house that I have built.
2/ Second Reading (Gal 1:1-2, 6-10): 1 Paul, an apostle not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead, 2 and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia.
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel 7 not that there is another. But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed!
10 Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
3/ Gospel (Lk 7:1-10): 1 When he had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. 7 Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
I. THEME: God also loves the Gentiles, not only the Jews.
One question which the Israelites must face from the early centuries is: Can the Gentiles inherit God’s salvation? This is also the Catholic question: Is there salvation for those outside of the Church? The Vatican II Council confirmed: Yes! If a person, though not knowing and believing God due to having no opportunity; but if he lives a good life, loving and helping others, he shall be saved because Christ’s blood is poured out for all. In opposition, if a person, bearing the name of Christian, but his behaviors didn’t show any sign of God’s children, shall not inherit God’s salvation. Jesus also confirms with this type of person: “Away from me! I don’t know you!”
Today readings provide us many good examples of Gentiles and the effects of their prayers. In the first reading, after his prayer for the Israelites on the day of the dedication of the Jerusalem Temple, king Solomon prayed for any Gentile who stands in the Temple to pray to God. The king asked us to accept their prayers, so that they recognize God’s power and to believe in His name. In the second reading, St. Paul opposed some Jewish Christian who preached a gospel based on keeping the laws and making Gentiles to have circumcision and purified laws. It is because these laws have no power to liberate people from sins and death that Christ incarnated to wipe out sins and to bring salvation for people. Therefore, Gentiles only need to believe in Christ and to practice His teachings. In the Gospel, Jesus was moved by the centurion’s real love for his servant and his way of expressing his truthful faith in Him, so He cried out: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
1/ First Reading: “May all people of the earth know your name and revere you.”
1.1/ There is a place for the Gentiles in Jerusalem Temple from the origin, called the court of Gentiles: Today passage is King Solomon’s prayer after he finished the building of the first Jerusalem Temple (cf. 2 Chr. 6:32-39). This prayer shows us King Solomon’s concerns, not only limited in the Israel’s circle but also opened to all Gentiles. The king would like for many people in the world to know God’s holy name and power, and they shall come and pray in the Temple. The Temple has a place reserved for the Gentiles called the Court of the Gentiles.
1.2/ May you listen and grant all things that Gentile asked: King Solomon prayed, “Do all that the foreigner asks of you, that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, may revere you as do your people Israel, and may know that your name has been invoked upon this house that I have built.”
The king is not selfish to limit God’s blessings upon the Israelites; but he prayed to God to accept all prayers of those who shall come and pray in this temple. The purpose of his prayer is not for them to support financially; but to recognize God’s power and to believe in Him.
2/ Second Reading: There is only one true Gospel.
The center of the Letter to the Galatians is St. Paul’s faith which can be simply stated as follow: People are saved by their faith in Christ, not by carefully keeping the laws, such as: circumcision, purification, etc. The question put by Paul and his opposition is that “Must the Gentiles be kept the Jewish circumcision and the purification laws after they become Christians?” Paul affirmed: No. If anyone does, he is against the Gospel which he received. The Jerusalem Council in 50 A.D. also confirmed this.
The basic argument in the Letter to the Galatians for this point is that God freely bestows grace on people. St. Paul ascertains that people can’t do anything to be worthy with God’s love. The only thing people can do is to completely put themselves under God’s mercy through expressions of faith. The importance is not in what people do but in what does for people.
2.1/ There is only one real Gospel revealed by Jesus Christ: After St. Paul preached and established the Galatian church, there were some Jewish people came after him and preached another Gospel according to Jewish belief. They preached that if people want to please God, they must be circumcised and keep all Jewish laws. For them, people can please God and earn points through careful keeping of the laws. St. Paul astonished when he saw such faith in his church. He wrote to them: “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel 7 not that there is another. But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
St. Paul amazed because the Gentile Christians were reborn in the Baptism by their faith in Christ, and now they want to bring in themselves Jewish slavery yoke! He explained for them that the Law has no power to save people, this is the reason why God established the New Covenant through Christ to save people.
2.2/ People invented another Gospel due to their arrogance and jealousy: Paul’s opponents accused him: The reason why Paul preaches the Gospel without keeping the laws is to please the faithful since they don’t naturally liked to be bound by the laws. Such kind of religion is easy to attract people to follow. But Paul opposed them: If the keeping of the laws is enough for people to be saved, then Christ’s incarnation and death is not necessary and the Gospel he is preaching has no reason to exist. Since Christ truly died for people; this proves that the laws is not enough to bring salvation. Paul also objected his opponents’ accusation that he wanted to please the faithful: “10 Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Paul is carrying Christ’s marks in his body as a slave carries his master’s name; and he only concerns how to please Christ and to be faithful to Him.
2.3/ The true Gospel is revealed by Christ: St. Paul kept reminding people that though he does not belong to the Twelve, but he is directly sent by the Resurrected Christ to the Gentiles, and the Gospel he preaches is not given by people but directly by Jesus Christ’s revelation.
3/ Gospel: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
3.1/ The precious virtues of the Roman centurion: Though he is a Gentile but he has an exceptional love for others. He is very sensitive with others’ needs. The passage listed out some of his works:
– To his servant: He begs Jesus to heal the one who has no familial relation but only his slave. According to Roman law, a slave has not any right. The centurion must have an exceptional love to recognize his slave’s need. How many masters pay attention and recognize their servants’ sickness in the world?
– To the Jews: He belongs to the govern class, there is almost no one in such class who pays attention to the religious need of the governed class; but this centurion concerned about the Jewish religious need and helped them to build a synagogue so that they have a place to worship God. Is there any officer of the govern class wants to know needs of the governed class?
– To Jesus: He knew the Jewish tradition prohibiting a Jew to enter a Gentile’s house. To avoid causing a scandal for Jesus, he begs Jesus to heal his servant by commanding just a word. How many Gentiles worry about this tradition of the Jews?
Many people are also sensitive and recognize others’ need but they often are only temporal feelings, they don’t act to respond to their needs. This centurion is not only sensitive to recognize his slave’s need but also acts to help him to be heal. He looks for the best doctor to heal him because he loves his slave very much. He helps the Jews because he loves them and builds for them a synagogue. He finds a way for Jesus not entering his house by sending his friends to meet and tell Jesus that “He only needs to say a word.”
3.2/ The faith of the Roman centurion: He is not only humble to know himself but also sincerely expresses his faith publicly by sending words through his friends: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. 7 Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When knowing all these, Jesus admires him. He turns to the crowd who follows Him and said to them, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” A Gentile who didn’t know God; but firmly expresses three theological virtues in Jesus more than any Israelites or Catholics, why Jesus is not pleased and grants him what he asks! It is his faith that Jesus healed his servant.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should never despise those who have not the same faith with us and we must respect their faith. This doesn’t prevent us to help them to understand our beliefs.
– Every nation has their own cultures and traditions. We should never force them to live like us. We should generously accept differences except when they prevent or trivialize our faith.
– We must have a humble, trustful and revered attitude every time we appear before God’s presence. We should get rid of the attitude: “living so close to a pagoda one calls a god his friend.” Jesus warns us that: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”