Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we heard about the moment when the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, as recounted by St. Paul to the faithful in the city of Corinth. And then in the Gospel today, we heard of the Lord healing the servant of a Roman army centurion, by the great faith which he showed before all.

At that occasion, the Roman centurion, which was quite a senior leader within the structure of the Roman army, came to Jesus and begged Him to make his servant better and recover from the illness that affected the servant. He had a great faith in the Lord, as well as astute understanding of the socio-political landscape at the time.

Why is that so? That is because of what the Roman centurion told Jesus when He was about to go to his house in order to heal the centurion’s servant. The centurion spoke the words which each and every one of us now regularly recite during the celebration of the Holy Mass. “Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”

These words showed to us that the centurion understood well the possible negative implications and repercussions should the Lord Jesus came to his house. The Jewish customs and traditions of that time prescribed against entry or visit into the house of a pagan. If one was to enter the house of a pagan, then he or she would be considered as unclean.

As such, the centurion simply asked the Lord to say the words, and he believed that his servant would be healed within an instant. And this ought be contrasted with what we heard of the attitude of many of the people to whom the Lord had come for. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, many of the people and even Our Lord’s own hometown neighbours rejected Him, despite having seen directly with their own eyes the Lord’s wonders and miracles.

The centurion believed with all of his heart, and for his faith, his prayers were listened to by God, and were fulfilled. The Lord praised him for his faith, which not many people in Israel at that time possessed, as we have just discussed. Now, let us ask ourselves, do we have the same faith as what the Roman centurion had?

As we see in our first reading today, the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper He had with His disciples, just before He was about to suffer and die and fulfil completely the mission He was sent into this world. And it was also to fulfil what He Himself had said earlier on to the people, that He is the Bread of Life, and all who eat of the Flesh and drink of the Blood that He gives, will have eternal life.

Now, the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Our Lord are the very focus and centres of our Christian faith. Yet, unfortunately, the reality is that there are still so many of us Christians who have not taken this seriously, or even acted in ways that scandalised this essential Christian truth.

This is evident from how we lack the respect and reverence for the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, treating the Eucharist not as the Lord Himself present in His full and complete Presence, in the Body, Soul and Divinity. Our core Christian faith is that we believe that even though the bread and wine remains as such in appearance, but in reality, in substance and in truth, they have been transformed into the very Presence and Reality of Our Lord Himself.

Then, we cannot do what we have done so far any longer, all of our irreverent attitudes, our lukewarm faith and attitude towards the Holy Mass, our refusal to put our whole heart and indeed, our whole being to be with God, and our failures to put God to be at the centre of our lives.

Let us today follow the example of the Roman centurion, as well as that of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, devoted servant of God and dedicated reformer of the Church. All of them have shown us what it means to be true disciples and followers of God.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a great intellectual and theologian remembered for his many beautiful works and writings, through which he helped to rejuvenate the Church battered and assailed both from inside and outside by divisions, heresies and external threats. He drove the reform of the governance of the Church, taking issue with the bishops and ordinaries who did not commit themselves or reside with their flock.

St. Robert Bellarmine and the many other saints of his era, and past and present holy men and women have shown us that we must have that strong faith in God, and dedication in order to be worthy of God. Indeed, as the army centurion said, ‘I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof’, for he and all of us are sinners. Our sins have made us to be unworthy of God. But are we willing to allow God to exercise His wonderful work of mercy in us?

Remember that the army centurion also asked the Lord to heal his servant, and let us link it with what we always utter during the Mass, ‘but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed’. This is a calling for us all to put our trust in God and turn towards Him, looking forward for His mercy and love. We have to remember that ultimately, each and every one of us are God’s beloved ones.

May the Lord be with us, and continue to shower us with His love. May He empower each and every one of us, that we may continue to grow in faith, modelled after St. Robert Bellarmine, the faithful Roman centurion and the many other holy men and women who have gone before us. May God bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

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