Reflections from The Hill – Pentecost 2 – Luke 7.1-10 – Rattling Cages
Every now and then, someone comes along who rattles our cage. Generally, it’s someone whom we least expect and who acts in a way that really throws us off our nicely balanced walk through life.
Someone who’s doing this for me currently is Pope Francis. Now, I’m not any kind of Vatican-Watcher – nor am I a Cantabophile, which is like an Anglican version of the afore-mentioned Vatican Watcher.
In the last couple of weeks, the Man-in-White has done some stuff and said some things that, if any of the Clergy in our Field of Dreams did it and said them, no-one would turn as much as a hair. It’d be seen as just a part of normal parish life.
What Francis did was to pray for someone who was sick, with the laying on of hands. What he said was that everyone is redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice, whether they believe it or not. Both episodes have turned quite a few hairs, it seems.
First, he was accused of ‘performing exorcisms’; and then he proclaimed that it’s not just the Catholics who’ll get to heaven. Poor bloke has obviously been reading the Bible and is fast heading into Loopy Land, such has been the impact.
My guess is that the stink in the Vatican ain’t just caused by the universally-acknowledged Italian plumbing system but also by someone taking seriously the story in this week’s Gospel about a Centurion, a Slave and the Onlookers.
The issue is not that someone as unlikely as Pope Francis should demonstrate a level of faith. The issue is that we think it unlikely for him to do something like this in the first place.
I mean, Popes are supposed to stay inside St Peter’s and occasionally go on world tours or come the window and wave now and then, aren’t they? He shouldn’t be doing that, should he?
Amazingly, there’s no record that the person Francis prayed with was healed or ‘came to faith’, as the spitfire pilots of the church would say. Maybe s/he was there already.
Nor is there a record yet that some unchurched person has been drawn to the Big Fella’s heart because of what Francis said, although I’m warming to the idea that, sometime, there will be.
Think about Jesus and the Centurion. There’s no reason to for us to believe that the centurion became a Follower. He wasn’t even all that excited to meet The Bloke – and that doesn’t cause The Bloke or Luke any problems at all. Instead, The Bloke praises the guy for his outstanding faith.
We know nothing about this soldier: where he came from, who his parents were, what school he attended, nothing. All we know is that he’s graduated from Grunt College to become Someone Important in the military hierarchy of Imperial Rome. He’s hardly a candidate for the Faith Test.
My guess is, should I do a straw poll of readers of this Reflection, that each of us has or knows someone like him: someone who’s faith doesn’t show, who doesn’t seem to go to church or maybe isn’t a follower of The Bloke at all.
As well, I reckon that there are many of us Christians out there who struggle with the outsiders: those family members and friends whose relationship to The Big Fella and The Church is, at best, fragile or, worst, non-existent.
Often, and sadly, the only thing we often hear about those outsiders is from those in that part of the church who say that if these folks don’t believe, they’ll go to the only place that offers year-round, mighty hot, central heating. That’s all, nothing else, just heating.
Would The Big Fella use him/her? Could s/he be an example of faith? Could s/he be used by Him for His purposes, even if they wouldn’t call it that?
Would we have the grace and courage to approve and commend their actions if they did and share our gratitude that The Big Fella loves and uses them, too? My reading of today’s Good News says that we can.