The centurion and his servant

The gospel reading for today is the well known account of the Roman centurion encountering Jesus on behalf of his servant. Stories like this one from Jesus’ ministry were crucial during the debate of the early church concerning the mission to the Gentiles. The nationality of the centurion is not given, but he was not a Jew. He would have been a member of Herod’s peacekeeping force rather than a member of the imperial army, which had no forces in Galilee at this date. In Luke, this incident foreshadows the various statements in Acts that God knows no partiality; rather, “The man of any nation who fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35; see 15:9). If even the observant Jews of Jesus’ own time brought a non-Jew to Jesus, and if Jesus went to him without quibble — the church’s argument must have run — why shouldn’t Jewish Christians accept Gentiles? Continue reading

The dishonest steward: a larger context

This coming Sunday is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Lectionary Cycle C. The gospel is the parable of the “dishonest steward,” a parable that is one which we are surprised when the dishonest steward’s master praises him for his prudence as the now-dismissed steward scurries around making deals and writing off debts. As all parables, it stands on its own, but this parable exists in the milieu of readings with themes of riches, reversals, and hospitality. Continue reading