Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Third Sunday after Epiphany—22 January A.D. 2012
“To no man render evil for evil....”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    Today’s epistle is taken from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans—an instruction on the Faith to converts from both Paganism and Judaism.  The twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth chapters are something of an exhortation to worship God through good behavior, humility and charity, submission to legitimate authority, and concern for those who are weak in the Faith.  Today’s selection is part of that exhortation, demanding that Christians love even those who might seem to be enemies.

    The Church unites this exhortation with our Lord’s example, as related in Saint Matthew’s Gospel.[2]  The leper and the centurion were clearly outcastes from Jewish society.  In the Old Testament leprosy was presumed to be punishment for sin.  It made the subject ritually unclean, and required him to live apart from Jewish society.

    [He] Shall have his clothes hanging loose, his head bare, his mouth covered with a cloth, and he shall cry out that he is defiled and unclean.  All the time that he is a leper and unclean, he shall dwell alone without the camp.[3]

    Even if the leprosy seemed to be cured, the leper was required to have the cure verified by an examination by the priest.  And, if the cure were verified, the man would bring offerings to the priest to offer “sacrifice for sin and to perform the rite of atonement.”[4]  The procedure for this is very involved, and its description takes up the entire fourteenth chapter of Leviticus.  In fact, few were cured, and one with leprosy remained a pariah, doomed to a lonely and wasting death.

    The centurion was an officer of the Roman Army, that hated foreign force that occupied the holy land of God’s chosen people;  that foreign force that took away Jewish freedom, and demanded that taxes be paid to an Emperor far away.  Occasionally hatred for Roman officers and men escalated to the shedding of blood—eventually this bloodshed would bring about the destruction of Jerusalem and the very Temple where God dwelt amongst His people.  (Predicted in Matthew xxiv.[5])  To many Jewish people of Jesus’ time the centurion was even more of an outcaste than the leper!

    It is to these two outcastes that our Lord shows mercy, both giving us good example, and demonstrating His divine power.  With just a few words He healed the dread disease—the cure was immediate, so there could be no doubt that it was effected by Jesus.  With just a few more words He healed the servant of the centurion—without even being in his presence!  To the “great crowds [that] followed Him,” this was cause for amazement, demonstrating both divine power and compassion—a very practical lesson in loving one’s enemies and the outcastes of society.

    From this Gospel account we also learn respect for God’s law.  The leper was cured by the Son of God, but that did not exempt him from examination by the priests of the Temple, and the offering of sacrifices for sin and atonement.  The Mosaic Law was still in effect at that time, and, as such, represented God’s will on earth.  Only later would Jesus Christ replace the sacrifices of the Temple with the Sacrifice of the Cross, renewed, as it is, in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

    From the centurion we learn a lesson in faith.  Apparently the centurion had spent enough time learning about Jesus to know that His miracles were not mere physical cause and effect, but were, rather, acts of authority over creation.  As a military officer the centurion understood the nature of authority.  “I too am a man subject to authority, and I have soldiers subject to me....”  The centurions faith was based on direct observation of the works of Jesus Christ.  It was faith so impressive that it caused our Lord to favorably contrast this foreigner with all of the children of Israel—a warning not just for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but for all who have known God’s truth, but who are slow to acknowledge that truth by faith and word and work.

    But to return to the central theme of this Mass, we are to “be at peace with all men,” doing good always, insofar as it lies within our power, not being overcome with evil, but overcoming evil with good.


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