THE LIVERY OF CHRIST
READ: Luke 7: 1-10
“A Roman military officer posted in the Galilean city of Capernaum, had a servant who was near death. Hearing that Jesus was nearby, he sent a number of the officers of the local synagogue to ask Jesus if He might come and heal the officer’s servant. When these Jewish elders found Jesus, they pleaded with Him to come. They said, ‘This Roman deserves this favor from You, for he has treated the Jews well, and has even contributed to the building of our new synagogue.’ So Jesus started out to visit this Roman soldier. When Jesus was nearing the officer’s home, the officer sent out his friends to tell Jesus, ‘Sir, do not put yourself to any trouble, because I am not worthy to have You under my roof. For the same reason, I am not worthy to come to You myself. Just give the word and this servant will be cured. For I myself am a man under authority and have soldiers under my authority, a command is given and it is obeyed…. ” Hearing these words, Jesus turned to the people around Him and said, “In all of Israel, I never found faith as great as this Roman’s.” When the messengers returned, they found the servant to be in perfect health.” – Luke 7:2-10
Obedience is an aspect of faith, when that obedience has within it both humility and charity.
This Roman military officer displayed charity in his giving to the Jewish community and demonstrated his humility in his attitude toward Jesus, a Jewish rabbi. The Roman officer could have sent soldiers to draft Jesus into his service. The Roman officer could have coerced Jesus to do his bidding. The Roman officer could have offered a bribe in the form of a sizable “contribution” to this rabbi’s cause. The Roman officer could have put this Jewish rabbi in the awkward position of having to enter the “unclean” house of a Gentile. But instead, this Roman soldier simply asked Jesus for His help. There seems to have been charity in this soldier’s humility … and humility in this soldier’s charity. Together … when melded into this soldier’s faith in Christ’s power and compassion, was something that deeply moved the soul of Jesus. Turning to His followers and others in this Jewish crowd, Jesus declares …”Consider this Roman soldier, consider his trust, his humility, his charity … now this is, my devout friends, what I consider to be … great Faith!”
Walter Hilton, a 14th century Augustinian monk, wrote in his classic work, The Ladder of Perfection, “…Prepare yourself, therefore, to be clothed with [Christ’s] likeness – that is, in humility and charity which are His livery – and then Christ will admit you into His friendship and show you His secrets.” (ch. 51).
A few days ago, I was sent to the barn to retrieve and then to oil the harness for the horses, a task I have done before. There at the entry to the stalls hung the well-worn leather livery for the horses. Each harness had a brass nameplate attached to it with the name of the horse etched on it. This harness belonged to Jake and that harness belonged to Belle, each custom-fitted to each horse’s build, manner and work. As I cleaned, oiled and polished that livery, I meditated on the notion of obedience. This harness, this livery, comprised the work tools for those work horses, tools that enabled them to get their work done and to get their work done well. For those who have never worked with horses on the farm, you might think that work horses would shy away from the harness, wanting to refuse these symbols of obedience. But horses who work with kind farmers tend to eagerly and quite willingly take on the livery … for that harness means that they get to work in those fields of the Lord, to feel the strength God gave them to come to life and to be a part of the great re-creation.
For the Christian disciple, our faith in Christ’s mercy and our faith in the power of God’s love must most willingly and even eagerly take on the livery of Christ – a harness, that for some might seem limiting and burdensome, but for those who find the satisfying joy of a day’s work well done, that harness is an expression, a tangible expression of Faith. And this livery of Christ – is known as humility and charity, with each harness custom-fitted for each disciple’s build, manner, and work.
Brother Anthony of the Cross,
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