Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope and martyr, and St. Cyprian, bishop and martyr
(I Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 7:1-10)
Persecutions in the early Church were not as severe and frequent as sometimes imagined but they did occur. The Romans were generally lax about religious laws only insisting that people pay respect to their gods without necessarily abandoning their own. Of course, Christians could not acknowledge the existence of other gods and, therefore, were persecuted when it was politically expedient. St. Cyprian was executed as a witness to faith in Christ while St. Pope Cornelius died in exile for being Christian.
In the first reading today, Christians are exhorted to pray for those in authority so that they might avoid persecution. It is not to be a prayer for show but, as the author states, that the authorities might realize God’s will of universal salvation. The gospel likewise testifies to this purpose as Jesus praises the faith of a Roman officer.
Some may find it quaint today to pray for the salvation of non-Christians given Vatican II’s acknowledgment that one following his or her conscience will come to be saved. However, Pope Benedict has offered some insight into the situation when he asks whether people who convert their opinions and desires into norms of conscience and do anything they wish may be saved. No, the world desperately needs the saving truth of Jesus if everyone is going to be transformed into a saint.