1 Timothy 2:1-8
I noticed something in today’s Gospel that I had never noticed before:
When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum.
A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.
He was valuable to him.
I wondered why he was valuable to him. I don’t know, of course, whether it was because the centurion was a man given to appreciation and affirmation? Personally, I don’t think so. The rest of his words seem to be a man who does favours authority over kindness, order over freedom. I may, of course, be wrong. But that’s how it seems to me. I can only guess the slave was valuable because he was a slave, an obedient slave.
And then I started thinking about this centurion’s other slaves. Were they not valuable to him? Would he go to those same lengths for something he saw as little or no value?
I don’t know who said it, but I read once, “The mark of a person is what they will do for someone who can do absolutely nothing for them.”
Fr Greg Boyle, SJ, found of Homeboy Industries, says, “The evil in our world comes down to one basic lie: that there are lives out there that are worth less than other lives, and how do we stand against that idea?”
Maybe ten years ago, I was accompanying some Year 11 students on a pilgrimage to the Philippines. One day, we spent walking and sharing with the people who lived on the rubbish tip at Payatas. These people lived by scavenging through the leftover rubbish and garbage of those who had plenty, hoping to find something they could sell to pay for their scant needs. It was a Sunday, so there was no “new” rubbish; those who chose to work were simply working over what had already been worked over many times.
As we walked around and chatted, as much as we could, to these people and families, we came across a family who had a karaoke machine. We enjoyed them as they worked their way through Tagalog love ballads and then bade our farewells.
That night, as we discussed the day, I asked the students, “What was the most significant thing you saw today?”. And maybe five of the ten students said, “The family playing karaoke”. I was a little surprised; it had been fun, but for me, significant. So, I asked them, “Why was that so important?”
One of the students said, “It was important to me because, in a place of such misery and hardship and suffering, people could still celebrate life.”
He paused for a few seconds and then simply added:
“Every life deserves to be celebrated.”
Fr Peter Gardiner is an Australian Passionist priest who is presently in Vietnam with a family from our parish in Endeavour Hills, engaged in outreach work.