HOMILY MONDAY OF THE TWENTY-FOURTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME 2017 DEACON ANDREW THOMAS
We all are familiar with the commonly quoted Latin maxim, "Ignorantia juris non excusat." which means, "Ignorance to the law excuses no one."
Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of driving into speed traps in small towns. Whether or not we see the sign and react to the change in speed, is of no importance to the officer writing the speeding ticket.
As much as one might be tempted to debate with the officer regarding the visibility of the sign, or any other circumstance that might mitigate the driving offence, it is usually to no avail.
The consequence is determined regardless of the intention and circumstance.
The Mosaic Law in the time of Jesus became interpreted by the Pharisees as being very black and white. There were almost no gray areas. This left very little room for understanding the heart of the law.
The Pharisees were certain that this Jesus of Nazareth was not the promised Messiah, because he didn't pay close attention to the Mosaic Law. With this knowledge, they attempted to trap Jesus. "Is it lawful to pay the census tax?"
And they constantly interrogated Jesus: Matthew 15:2, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders and wash their hands before eating bread." Or Mark 2:23, "Why do your disciples do what is unlawful on the Sabbath, picking heads of grain?" thus working on the Sabbath. Jesus is even criticized in Jn 5:17 for healing on the Sabbath, as a form of work, thus violating the law.
The Gentiles were somewhat ignorant to the Mosaic Law. They were at a complete disadvantage because they were not the chosen people of God. The Israelites were the chosen people. The Gentiles were often referred to in the Old Testament as the uncircumcised, meaning they were not part of the covenant with Abraham, and thus could not be trusted.
St. Paul's letter to Timothy, Paul describes himself as the teacher of the Gentiles. In Romans 2:15, Paul discusses that the Gentiles had the law written on their hearts, referring to what St. Thomas Aquinas calls the natural law.
Paul suggests in his magnum opus, RomaNs that the Jew will be judged by his adherence to the Mosaic Law, and the Greek, adherence to the natural law, but ultimately it is faith in Christ that saves, whether Jew or Gentile.
In the Gospel today from Matthew, we see something beautiful. Jew and Gentile come together. The elders of the Jews ask Jesus to help heal the servant of a Roman centurion, a Gentile. "For he loves our nation, and helped build the synagogue."
But what heals the centurion's servant: Faith in Christ. It is the humble disposition and submission to Christ of the Roman centurion that allows for this beautiful healing to take place.
As we approach the Eucharistic banquet we do so with profound humility. We will all repeat the words of the Roman centurion, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.
Do the exterior words we say reflect our interior disposition? We become very pharisaical when it does not.
Let's never forget what Paul reminds us, quoting the prophet, Jeremiah: "Circumcise your hearts."
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