The Faith of an Enemy

Luke 7: 1-10
1 Tim 2: 1-8 / Psa 28

I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.
(Luke 7:9)

God makes the sun rise and rains fall
To all, both friend and enemy;
So let us all tear down the wall
Of prejudice and enmity.

When Jesus had finished teaching the people, He entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. (Luke 7:1-10)

Reflection

There are only two incidents narrated in the Bible where our Lord Jesus was surprised (or marveled), and both had something to do with faith (or the lack of it). The first we read in the Gospel of Mark, when He was rejected by His own people in Nazareth, where “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk.6:6). The other time was when Jesus was amazed at the rare demonstration of faith by a heathen, a Roman centurion who certainly did not have any knowledge of the Scriptures as most of the Jews did. The important thing was that he believed in the power of Jesus, in contrast with the town mates of Jesus who did not.

The other non-Jew (Gentile) who also believed in the “long-distance” healing power of Jesus was the Syrophoenician woman, whose daughter was possessed by a demon (Mt.15:21-28). She believed that Jesus could heal her daughter by simply mentioning the word. For her great faith, Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is your faith; let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once (Mt.15:28).

What message does this Gospel passage today tell us? First, that Christians do not have a monopoly of compassion and mercy. All people in the world, even non-believers are created to be compassionate. Just as most people in the world have the natural tendency to have biases and prejudice against other people who are not of their own tribe or religion. For instance, the long-standing conflict between Christians and Muslims is basically the result of distrust and prejudice. Most Christians regard Muslims as “unbelievers”, not to be trusted; but Muslims also regard Christians as “infidels”, and not to be trusted either. Then, perhaps what both sides need to do to attain that elusive peace is to tear down the walls of prejudice and the lack of faith in each other’s capacity to love and share. Both religions must give each other the benefit of the doubt. In the first reading today, St. Paul advised: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim.2:2-5). I think the “truth” that the Apostle to the Gentiles was referring to was faith in a loving God Who will save us all.

Father God, as we pray for peace to reign in our land and all over the world, we implore You to take away all forms of prejudice and distrust in the world, and replace them with Your graces of wisdom and understanding, and a desire for peace and compassion for all. Amen.

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