But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first lace, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you meet together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait upon one another.
After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us."
Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
Different sides of the Church's mission are seen in today's texts. In Luke the Roman centurion shows how well prepared a pagan can be for the Gospel; and Paul's Letter shows how the Gentiles stands in need of correction, to return to Gospel values. The Church's mission is clear and engaging: God wants all to be saved and to know the truth; Jesus gave himself as ransom for all; and Paul has a mission to all nations.
The pagan centurion shows even stronger faith than existed in Israel. If we transfer this into our time, the faith of a Buddhist or a Muslim can take us by surprise. The Roman centurion shows a gracious concern for the distress of his servant. He sends to Jesus for help, even risking refusal as a soldier in the occupying army of Rome. He also shows courtesy towards Jesus, "Sir, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter my house." Open and honest, he does not beat around the bush and is not afraid to publicly admit his confidence in Jesus, and courteously sends a delegation of Jewish elders to intercede for him and his slave. These natural virtues served to create a distinguished public servant and portray him as a consummate diplomat. Jesus praises the faith of this foreigner.
Converts can teach the parent church. Believers can become hardened against change, take their faith for granted, use it for self-assertion, and lose sight of natural virtues. An instance of such back-sliding was already corroding a group founded by Paul. The Corinthians were not united in charity and peace but split apart into wealthy and poor, or into cliques around different gurus, (Paul or Cephas or Apollos,) or even according to their tastes in food and drink. All this was especially shocking during the Eucharist. To heal it, Paul repeats the central tradition: The one body belongs to Christ, the one blood is that of Christ. Christians are united with Jesus' death and in hope of his second coming. They must stand together, share sufferings and hope and material well-being together, for they are all ransomed by the same Lord Jesus.
The words of the centurion have made their way into our Eucharist, "I am not worthy to have you under my roof.. give the word and let my servant be cured." The new translation of the Roman Missal has, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." The Roman centurion spoke as a pagan who did not want Jesus the Jew to be in breach of the Jewish Law by entering the house of a pagan. He also showed tremendous faith in the life-giving power of Jesus' word. Jesus acknowledges his remarkable faith and declares it to be greater than any faith he had found in Israel. The least likely person, a pagan, an authoritative member of the occupying force, shows faith in Jesus. The gospel reading suggests that faith can be found in the most unlikely of people. We can never second guess who is a person of faith and who is not. This outsider's act of faith can become ours at every Eucharist.