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June 26, 2020
June 28, 2020

Homily for 27 June 2020, Saturday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Mat. 8:5-17

Why is Jesus so amazed at the behavior of the Roman Centurion in our Gospel today? Let me point out three things that might not be so obvious to you unless we give a little background:
1. If Jesus had agreed to go to the house of the Roman centurion, he would have been accused by the Zealot nationalists of being a Roman collaborator and a traitor to his country. It was therefore very considerate of the Roman Centurion not to ask Jesus to come to his house.
2. This man was not asserting on Jesus his authority as a Roman military officer. He maintained a stance of humility by saying that all he was asking of Jesus was to say a word, as a superior sometimes gives an order to a lower rank officer. Meaning, he was putting himself under Jesus’ authority.
3. This man was asking for a favor, not for himself or a member of his family, but for his servant. Most servants during those times were slaves. If they got sick, or old, or disabled, they could be easily replaced. He could always buy a new slave. Look, this man was not even Jewish; but Jesus found him to be more humane than many Jewish leaders. He cared for his slave as he cared for his own son.
In short, he saw in this man who was regarded as an enemy of his country, a nobility of character which he never saw even in the temple priests or the Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem. To tell you the honest truth, I have felt the same way towards many people I have met who are not even Catholic or Christian. After all, we do not have a monopoly of love and compassion, care and respect, humaneness and nobility of character. We might sometime be surprised to find more of it outside our own circles.
Sometimes they call it good breeding. When I was in elementary, we called it GMRC, good manners and right conduct. Jesus observed it in this centurion. While the revolutionary nationalists during his time caricatured every soldier as people who lorded it over, people who abused their authority, Jesus never accepted caricatures. He did not go for labeling or branding.
I read this morning in the papers that a measure requiring GMRC and values education to be taught again in basic and secondary school levels, has been signed into a law. Will this law be an assurance that in the next few years after its implementation we can expect better behaved or well-mannered Filipinos? Will it succeed in giving a more concrete expression to the ideals we profess in our PANATANG MAKABAYAN to be a good Filipino citizen, in thought, word,and deed? I think you can answer that question yourselves.
When your children can also address janitors and housemaids with respect and say po and opo to them as they do to their own elders, when they can patiently wait for their turn, when they can be trusted with money, whether big or small amounts, when they know how to return what they borrowed, keep the toilet clean for the next user, keep their promises, own up their mistakes and apologise for them, when they consciously avoid saying words that can insult or hurt the feelings of others, when they don’t pretend to be what they are not, when they know the magic words like Please, Thank you, I am sorry or Pardon me, You’re welcome, when they don’t laugh at the expense of others, when they can anticipate the needs of others and are ready to offer assistance even before they are asked, you can be sure that they have received good breeding.
You see, values are both taught and caught. You don’t really learn them until you’ve actually imbibed them and they have become second nature to you. It won’t be easy learning them in school or in Church if you’ve never learned them at home. You pick them up from parents, teachers, priests, role models, often without even being aware of it. As the Africans would say, IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD. The good manners come from good character. A well-formed mind, heart and soul will express itself in speech, demeanor, relationships.
I don’t think people always meant it negatively when they reacted to Jesus and said, “Where did this man get all these things? Is he not the son of the carpenter? Do we not know his family, his parents?” When children turn out well, people sometimes ask jokingly, “Wow what did your parents feed you?”
Certainly not just food for our stomachs, but food also for our minds, hearts and souls. Including God’s Word, and the Holy Eucharist. We come to communion so that in receiving Christ we become more like Christ. That is why we are taught by the Church to say, before we receive Christ at communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Meaning, just say the word, and I know I can be the kind of person you have called me to be.

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