Monday, November 29, 2010

"Only Say the Word ..." - Impressive Faith

Last Sunday, I wrote about the penitent thief: " 'Jesus, Remember Me, When You Come Into Your Kingdom' " (November 21, 2010). Not "if" - "when you come into your kingdom." Now that's faith.

Today's Gospel reading includes part of another of my favorite accounts in the Bible: and this one involves faith, too. You'll probably recognize this:
"4 When he entered Capernaum, 5 a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.' He said to him, 'I will come and cure him.' The centurion said in reply, 6 'Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. 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 Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, 'Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel 7 have I found such faith. I say to you, 8 many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' And Jesus said to the centurion, 'You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.' And at that very hour (his) servant was healed."
(Matthew 8:5-13)
There's a stereotype I've run into, that folks who are 'religious' are just simply dripping with faith and spirituality. That's okay, as far as it goes.

Faith, and Wandering in a Daze

A problem, I think, is that symptoms of what many folks in America think is 'being religious' are nearly indistinguishable from those of being stoned.

I don't think cheap religious art helped any. There's this one particularly egregious example - probably intended to be a copy of Giuseppe Ghedine's "Assumption of the Virgin" - that set a sort of low-water mark.

This made-for-mass-production drawing was on a prayer card - a quite nice little aid for personal devotions. That picture, though! The Virgin Mary looked like she'd just been sapped, but hadn't fallen down yet. It was the eyes, chiefly. Mary's eyes were rolled up - and she was walleyed. I've written about that before. (August 9, 2010)

Don't get me wrong: Prayer cards can be a fine way to stay reminded of a particular prayer. I've used the things.

And there's nothing wrong with being a vague, dreamy, 'spiritual' person. If that's what the person actually is like. But it doesn't look like we're all supposed to 'spiritual' like that. I've written about unity, diversity, and being Catholic before. (August 26, 2010)

The dreamy types, who don't seem too well attached to the space-time continuum? They can be fine people. Although I think they do better if there's someone around to make sure they eat and sleep.

But, and this is important: religious faith isn't just for vague, dreamy types.

A Vague, Dreamy - Centurion?!

We don't hear about centurions much, these days, apart from a few Bible passages. A Wikipedia article says that a centurion in the Roman imperial army was an officer whose rank was roughly between today's captains and colonels. (Centurions, "Roman Legion," Wikipedia) Although I don't necessarily take assertions in Wikipedia articles at face value, this is one of the articles with citations. And the 'captain to colonel' assessment agrees approximately with what I've run into elsewhere.

Like Footnote 5 in that bit from Matthew:
"[5] A centurion: a military officer commanding a hundred men. He was probably in the service of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee; see the note on Matthew 14:1."
Bottom line? A Roman centurion was an officer in one of the best armies around at the time. He certainly didn't gain and hold his rank - and his life - by living in a vague 'spiritual' haze.

Look at the sort of faith he had. The centurion understood authority - and its implications. What's more, he recognized Jesus as someone with the sort of authority it takes to say 'be healed,' and have it be done: even if the person to be healed wasn't nearby.

Dreamy? No. Faith? Yes.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:


Brigid said...

I like the centurion's approach to faith better than the hazy variety. It always creeped me out when people would have that sort of weird trance-but-not-a-trance expression.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Me, too, about the centurion. And 'really spiritual' folks.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.