Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
12th Saturday in Ordinary Time
Lamentations 2: 2. 10 – 14, 18 – 19; Ps 74; Matthew 8: 5 – 17
Someone made this commentary on the Book of Lamentations: “When history has become unendurable, faith still endures.” This truth, I believe, fits as well the account in today’s Gospel of the centurion’s appeal for his servant. It seems that the death of the servant would make his life unendurable but his strong faith in Jesus’ loving power, His extraordinary authority is greater: “…only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
In previous days we have been hearing in the Book of Kings the fall of Jerusalem after a siege of almost two years by the Assyrians, the destruction of the Temple, the arrest and blinding of King Zedekiah who with most of the people are led into exile to Babylon. For these people, history had become unendurable.
The reading from the Book of Lamentations is an anguished cry: “To what can I liken or compare you, O daughter Jerusalem? What example can I show you for your comfort, virgin daughter Zion? For great as the sea is your downfall; who can heal you?”
The author poses a question and then, in faith, he answers it: “Cry out to the Lord; moan, O daughter Zion!…Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” Whatever the need, as the centurion’s prayer for his servant, whatever the catastrophe, no matter how great as recounted in Kings and Lamentations, it is faith that proclaims that such history, events are never the last word. In fact, life can go on and be more than survival.
For a person without faith, prayer is absurd, pure foolishness. For one with faith, prayer is the reaching out to God, it is wisdom. This wisdom is found at the end of today’s Responsorial Psalm (74): “…may the afflicted and the poor praise Your Name.”
Reflecting on our own lives, considering the place of prayer in our lives, we are truly, graciously blessed with the gift of faith, with the wisdom that sees beyond all circumstances of whatever kind to the One who is always greater.
When it comes to the gift of faith, for a nonbeliever, no explanation is possible and for a believer, for us, no explanation is necessary.