Saturday, February 4, 2017

February 4: Cornelius the Centurion

There are moments in great literature that always cause me to pause, if only for a moment, regardless of how many times I've read that particular sacred or secular work.  In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is the moment when Huck, who has been taught that to defy authority is a mortal sin, decides that he would rather go to Hell than to turn in Jim, the runaway slave who has become his friend.  In sacred literature, it is the moment when Peter, who has understood that Christianity is for Jews and Jews only, realizes in the tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that, "Truly, God shows no partiality."  This moment of revelation is what opens Christianity to all, in fulfillment of Jesus' teaching.

Peter's revelation is made known through his work with Cornelius the Centurion and Cornelius' family.  All we know of today's feast day honoree is captured in two chapters of Acts,
that Cornelius lived in Caesarea, the capital of Judea under Herod, and would have been in charge of 100 Roman soldiers [The title "Centurion" is the root word for the military rank of "captain".]  This reference gives us a window into that moment when Peter, and the other surviving apostles, were able to internalize and live the teachings of their rabbi, thus opening Christianity to the large influx of gentiles that would fill its ranks by the end of the 1st century.

 O God, by your Spirit you called Cornelius the Centurion to be the first Christian among the Gentiles; Grant to your Church such a ready will to go where you send and to do what you command, that under your guidance it may welcome all who turn to you in love and faith, and proclaim the Gospel to all nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.