How to begin this today? First let me say a word of thanks to all of you who have taken a turn here to preside and be the homilist at these meetings. I had a turn early on and then decided to pass the opportunity around. Thank you.
For this Mass today I was looking around to find someone to be the presider/homilist and finally decided, well it might be my turn again. Then I looked at the readings. Surprise! This passage about the centurion and his servant in Luke; there is also a version in Matthew, have been favorites of mine. I thought about resisting the chance to say something on this topic. I could talk on Pope Cornelius. Well, I decided to go with a reflection on the gospel and hope that it would also fit in with our call to reach out to the outsider, folks on the margins.
In Luke’s account, Jesus praises the centurion’s faith as greater than any he has seen in Israel. It is one of many examples of faith in Luke’s gospel. There might be an invitation here for us to see examples of faith beyond our own community, beyond our own church. Simply celebrate faith when and where it appears. The Jesus of Luke’s gospel never preaches directly to the Gentiles. That only happens in Acts.
In searching for some material on today’s gospel, I at one point ended up at the Wikipidia site, then scrolling down, saw this headline; “Homo-erotic connotations of the passages in Mt. 8 and Lk. 7.” Reading through a list of scripture scholars under this heading I saw a name I recognized. It stirred a very dusty memory, Daniel A. Helminiak.”
This is the old memory, twenty to twenty-five years ago at a gathering of one of the national groups I belonged to at that time, I had the honor and privilege of introducing Daniel A. Helminiak. I cannot remember the group or where it was. It was likely a New Ways event. I also probably have a book or two of Helminiak’s.
For some reason, probably I was familiar with the group and he was not; I was asked to introduce him. So, little ole me introduced Daniel Helminiak who is described on his own web site which I discovered yesterday as an "Author, Lecturer, Psychotherapist, Priest and Theologian, and Psychology Professor."
This is a portion of how he described himself. “I grew up in an intensely devout Polish Catholic community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Having entered seminary at a tender age of seventeen, I was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome. Until my retirement in mid-2018, I served as a full Professor in the humanistic and transpersonal Department of Psychology at the University of West Georgia, near Atlanta."
This is for our reflection today. Here is Helminiak’s comment on the passage from Luke’s gospel this morning; "Matthew 8 and Luke 7 present parallel accounts of Jesus' curing the centurion's servant. The Greek reads 'pais' (boy, slave) and contrasts in the passages with the term that refers to the other slaves 'doulos' (servant, slave). Luke also notes that the boy was 'dear' to the evidently wealthy centurion. Not the cost of a slave nor a mere youth's experience and skill, but only emotional attachment would explain 'dear.' In extra-biblical usage, 'pais' was sometimes used to refer to a man's male lover. Very likely, the boy was the centurion's lover. Jesus cured the boy, restoring the relationship and commending the centurion's faith.”
This is my reason for considering Luke 7 and the cure of the centurion's servant as one of my favorite scripture passages. We use similar words that the centurion used and who Jesus praised for his faith every time we welcome Jesus in the Eucharist; “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” That is the reason I am partial to this passage.
A final thought. At a recent community meeting we passed a resolution to invite Fr. James Martin, SJ to speak to us. I was not around for the voting, but I was told that the resolution passed with a significant positive vote.
The fallout. Later that day I was visited by one of my superiors who told me that he was confused by my homily. Like many Roman Catholic communities, we are grappling with pedophilia issues. He warned me that I should be more aware of that. I told him that I was aware of the pedophilia implications but decided to offer these reflections today. I told him I was sorry if he was offended. I said that I was aware of the whole Roman man/boy relationship. In parting he said to me that his criticism applied to other types of relationships. I did not respond.
In going back and looking at more of what Daniel Helminiak has to say on this; he writes in his book Sex and Sacred that it is hard to know what would have been in Jesus mind at the time. Helminiak then says that if Jesus did not condemn the centurion for his apparent homosexual relationship, he certainly missed a key opportunity to condemn homosexuality.
A link to Daniel Helminiak's web page.
A link to Daniel Helminiak's web page.