First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all - this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.
Hear the voice of my pleading
as I call for help,
as I lift up my hands in prayer
to your holy place. (R./)
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts.
I was helped, my heart rejoices
and I praise him with my song. (R./)
The Lord is the strength of his people,
the stronghold where his anointed find salvation.
Save your people; bless Israel your heritage.
Be their shepherd and carry them for ever. (R./)
After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us."
Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
While Paul proclaims the Gospel's outreach to the world, the Roman centurion shows how well prepared outsiders can be, to accept Gospel values.
The mission statement in 1 Timothy is clear and engaging: God wants all to be saved and to know the truth; Jesus gave himself as ransom for all; and Paul has a mission to all nations. Since God wants all to be saved, it seems that the bulk of humanity are being saved without explicitly accepting the Gospel. Much less than fifty percent of the world's population is Christian. Therefore it is not explicit faith that determines the ultimate fate of an individual but the quality of a live as lived. The difference between faith and unbelief is between the strength of relying on Jesus and the uncertainty of living without his inspiration. Paul prays that all may be saved and "come to know the truth." The truth of Jesus sets us free and inspires us, brings us peace and deepens our respect for life. As Paul says, since God is one, all God's children form one human family, with a mighty mediator between God and ourselves, the man Christ Jesus.
In the Gospel the outsider, a Gentile centurion, shows stronger faith than the Jews. In our own context, the spark of faith in a Buddhist or a Muslim, or even a person of no religion, can take a Christian by surprise. The Roman centurion shows great concern, simplicity and graciousness towards the distress of his servant. He asks Jesus for help, risking refusal as a member of the hated Roman army. He also shows a courteous spirit, "Sir, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter my house." Open and honest, he does not beat around the bush and is not afraid to publicly admit his trust in the healing power of Jesus. This man courteously sent a delegation of Jewish elders to intercede for him and his slave. He seems a consummate diplomat and his faith is highly praised.
The words of the Roman centurion are echoed in our Eucharistic when we say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof." The centurion spoke as a pagan who did not want Jesus the Jew to be in breach of the Jewish Law by entering the house of a pagan. He also showed great faith in the life-giving power of Jesus' word. Jesus acknowledges his remarkable faith and declares it to be greater than any faith he had found in Israel.
The least likely person can come to faith in Jesus. We should not quickly judge who is a person of faith and who is not. This centurion's faith can inspire us at every Eucharist.