1Tm 2:1-8; Ps 28:2,7-9; Lk 7:1-10
Sometimes we lift up holy hands toward his holy shrine. Sometimes we fold our hands and sit in silence before his holy shrine. Whether we lift up our hands or not, we must lift up our hearts to exult and sing with great thanks. For the LORD is our strength, shield, refuge; the LORD blesses, feeds, and carries us forever. This is the kind of security that faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, brings into our lives. So we live and move and have our being in a world that is being transformed by our constant prayer. Our daily prayer is as essential to Christian life as breathing is to human life. Without prayer there is no life. In his letter to the Bishop Timothy, the Apostle Paul asks for prayer so that we might live a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. The devotion and dignity of a Roman centurion amazes the Lord Jesus soon after he has taught the people on the plane. The centurion’s faith is so amazing to the Lord and to the early church that we remember it at the mass, and we recite his prayer before we approach Holy Communion in the western liturgy. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
In this letter to Saint Timothy, one of the bishops appointed by the Apostle Paul, we hear a clear proclamation of the universal salvific will of God. After asking for prayers, supplications, petitions, and thanksgivings to be offered for everyone, Saint Timothy is given a theological justification for such a request. “This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” The Lord God Almighty is pleased with our prayer-filled concern for all people because His heart is filled with compassion for all people. The theological reflection continues. This universal salvific will of God is made clear and certain in the revelation of the mediator between God and men, Jesus the Christ who gave himself as ransom for all. Such was the testimony of the teacher of the Gentiles, Saint Paul himself. All who follow Saint Timothy and Saint Paul come to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and without anger or argument we offer our sacrifice of prayer for the life and salvation of the whole world. To limit our compassion to only believers, or fellow Catholics, is to place ourselves outside of the heart of God Our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; it is to deny the movement of the Holy Spirit. It is to deny our own devotion and dignity.
Saint Luke has just invited us to listen to the Divine Teacher in his great sermon on the plane, and now he invites us to be amazed with Our Lord Jesus who cried out, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Those children of Israel who have followed and listened to him preach are startled by the amazement of the Lord Jesus. In all the time they have spent with him, giving witness by their attentive listening to their faith, they have not amazed the Lord Jesus. Indeed, it takes a non-Israelite, a non-believer, to demonstrate a faith that sometimes we insiders take for granted. Can our hearts pray what our lips will recite? Do we really believe the words of our public prayer? Does the liturgy express our hearts? Are we humble? Are we honest? What does it mean to say: “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, only say the word and my soul will be healed”? Does it mean that I should not even try to become more and more worthy to receive the Lord? Does it mean that there will be a day in this life in which I will not need a healing word from the Lord Jesus? For an entire life, until eternal life is fully present, always I will be less than worthy, and always I will be in absolute need of healing. Such dependence does not denigrate my humanity as some have asserted, rather, it establishes my human dignity in the truth. Indeed, my conflicted heart and weakened nature is constantly needy and pleading before the LORD, my strength and my shield.