Isaiah 50: 4 – 7; Ps 22; Philippians 2: 6 – 11; Luke 22: 14 – 23: 56
Like a cast of actors in a play we have encountered in the Passion a number of people only they were not actors playing a part nor was this a play. We met real people all truly affected in one way or another by Jesus of Nazareth. Some filled with hatred were determined to kill Him like the leaders, the first we met. Some were filled with love, gratitude like the last mentioned, the grieving women at the tomb seeking to anoint Him in death.
Of all these let us center on one – a man unnamed who appears and then disappears into history. He is a Roman, a gentile and by profession a soldier – in fact he is the centurion, the officer in charge of the execution. For three hours the centurion guarded and watched Jesus; surely during those seemingly endless hours Jesus looked down at him and all the while this crucified King was working on his heart, was loving him into truth. How can we say this?
St. Luke reports: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice…’Father into Your hands I commend My spirit’ and He breathed His last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened, glorified God and said, ‘This man was innocent beyond doubt’.” St. Mark reports: “The centurion on seeing His manner of death declared, ‘Clearly this man was the son of God’.” Considering what he saw and hearing his words, we have to admit they are startling statements, in fact, strong convictions from someone who assuredly never expected to say them of anyone crucified.
In the darkness of this crucifixion there is a miracle of faith; a Roman publicly professes profound belief in this man because the Crucified One has been gracing him into belief – a belief he publicly professes. Perhaps, the words that came forth shocked him. The living flame of faith springing from the ardent heart of Christ kindled a fire in a Roman soldier simply doing his duty. How else explain what happened?
I believe there is a striking parallel between the Roman and us. With his eyes he watched a crucified man die and with the eyes of his heart he saw more – he recognized innocence and saw divinity. We hear the sacred readings and we, people of faith, recognize the voice of the Lord with the ears of our hearts. We hear a human voice but it is truly the Lord who speaks to us. We believe this.
We look upon a piece of unleavened bread and a chalice of wine and we perceive with the eyes of faith the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, His Real Presence, the Most Holy Eucharist. If this is not a miracle then nothing is!
The living flame, our Lord Jesus Christ, has kindled and does enkindle the fire of faith in you and me for our transformation, for our conversion, for our Eternal Life. Without a doubt we are immensely, graciously blessed by our Lord.