It seems like the closer God comes to us, the harder it is for us to receive Him with faith. God as an abstract idea which may or may not exist is something most people are willing to consider. God the distant Creator who set order, beauty, and perfection in the natural world is still fairly safe and edifying. The God who reveals by His words the same standards of justice and righteousness that we agree with is comforting. The God who openly rebukes and condemns wrongdoing by the mouth of His prophets arrives at an uncomfortable level of proximity however – especially when we ourselves are guilty. So long as a prophet is personally removed from the people to whom he addresses God’s Word, a comfortable level of anonymity can still be maintained. But when the prophet is God Himself, and the people He is sent to – preaching and teaching – were His equals and superiors throughout His childhood that is mind blowing. Any degree of separation between religion and human life is destroyed. Immediate religion is offensive – especially when we lack faith. It is offensive because the holiness of the invisible God seems to require some degree of separation between what we are and what God is. Immediate religion is even more offensive when we lack faith because it forces our conscience out of hiding and sets before it a Word or judgement whose authority we would like to reject but cannot do so comfortably.
The centurion always makes me stop to consider how immense Jesus’ mercy is. What boundless compassion He has for those who suffer. This man, this centurion, commands a hundred men, leads them and directs them. When he comes before Jesus he is so humbled, he simply admits that he is unworthy. This should strike us as somewhat strange because he is not an ordinary man, he is not a follower, he is not someone who just goes with the flow. Most of us, if we are honest, would be in agreement with this centurion – we are not worthy for Jesus to visit our house. However the difference is that this centurion is of higher standing than most of us. Even the mighty and those of high estate in this world must recognize their lowliness and humble themselves before the Lord.
Saints Peter and Paul are the two greatest pillars of the Church. Their lives are very different, and this helps us understand from a divine perspective how it takes all kinds – not only of people but also of leaders – to build up the Church. The message of Christ appeals way beyond any narrow segment of humanity, culture, or way of life. We need leaders that lead in very different ways. Let us meditate on the lives of Saints Peter and Paul to grasp how their different styles of leadership bore witness to the Gospel.