There are limits and limitations to everything. From the beginning of our lives, we are fettered and framed. What are the fetters and frames? Upon birth, as a human being, as a female or male, in a particular geographic territory, language group, religion, caste, class, or family, certain traits are automatically imposed and engraved in our personality. Some people are proud to belong to a specific category, while others lament their misfortunes.
It is common for these groups we are born into to demand specific behavior patterns from their members. Society rewards those who conform to the set patterns while reprimanding or punishing those who fail to conform.
In today's Gospel, Jesus is amazed by a centurion who refused to remain inside his frame. He dared to cross the set boundaries at every turn. By sympathizing with and caring for his slave, he crossed the social boundary of a normal slave-owner. By building a synagogue for the Jews, who regarded him as their bitter enemy and looked down on him as an untouchable, he crossed the boundary of his religion.
By respecting the customs and snobbish beliefs of the arrogant Jews, he crossed the boundaries of his role as a Roman official. He was not expected or obligated to do any of these things. He would not have been blamed for not doing so. However, he went above and beyond to make sure it was done. Why? He did not wish to remain a Roman mass product despite his Roman heritage.
He wanted to be special and unique. Individuals who follow orders and are docile will remain subordinates, but those who think for themselves and take the lead will become significant. It is only they who can amaze people.
Jerusalem might have had hundreds of centurions. However, this one crossed boundaries and got into the hearts of the Jews, Jesus, and the Gospel. What inspired him to do that? Those Jews who recommended him to Jesus said, "because he loves our country." Yes, it is love that enables people to overcome social, cultural, and religious barriers.
People are often bound by the frames into which they are born or grown. Because of those walls, they are prevented from appreciating the beauty of others or listening to and sympathizing with their agonies. Love is the only remedy for this blindness, deafness, and lack of sensitivity.
In their harbor, ships are safe, but they do not belong there. Certainly, frames, rules, and regulations provide security and comfort. It is also risky to abandon and outgrow frames. It is our divine vocation to grow, to emerge from our small shells of ego, crossing boundaries along the way! Only when we shatter our frames, cross our boundaries, and experience the freedom of God's children can we indeed be considered worthy, like Mary, whose feast we celebrate today.
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.