November 28, 2016 - Universal Salvation

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
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,
“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 man 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 have I found such faith.
I say to you, 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.”

Matthew 8:5-11

Yesterday we heard Isaiah’s beautiful prophecy of all nations streaming toward a renewed City of God.  Today’s reading illustrates that Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy.  A Roman centurion, the symbol of Israel’s oppression by a foreign empire, recognizes Jesus’s promise even more than his own people.  Jesus requires no conversion of him – not a religious conversion nor a moral one.  The message of Scripture represents something universal.  It is not the salvation of one people to the exclusion of others.   It is not even the salvation of the moral to the exclusion of the immoral. 

Swiss theologian Krister Stendahl turned theology on its head in the 1960s when asserted that St. Paul conceived of sin as something shared by everyone rather than behaviors in which we as individuals may or may not engage.  Every Catholic will recognize the words of the centurion as those the congregation says together at the most sacred moment of the Mass.  We say it together and we find forgiveness together. Just as our sin is universal, so is our redemption.

Image: Paolo Veronese, Healing the Centurion's Servant