Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, priest
(Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 8:5-11)
Can only a Christian be saved? Evidently St. Francis Xavier thought so. In a letter from India he wrote that many natives wanted to become Christians but there was no one to baptize them. He said that he wished to go to the universities of Europe yelling to the students that their keenness on studies has resulted in many people being consigned to hell. But is Baptism necessary for salvation?
The gospel passage indicates otherwise. Jesus is amazed at the centurion’s faith in God. He implies that there will be many like him coming from faraway places to take a seat at the heavenly table. Although he does not say explicitly that these people are not his followers, he does leave this impression. The centurion shows himself worthy a member of the Kingdom of God as much by his concern for a servant as by his deference to Jesus.
During Advent we express our hope for Jesus’ return as much by acts of mercy as by praying about the Advent wreath. Our efforts on behalf of others imply faith in Jesus’ teaching that what we do to the least of humans, we do to him. At the same time we show a relationship of care to the needy which suggests a common Father in God. Francis Xavier had a point about the need for missionaries to teach about God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice. However, the Holy Spirit works in many ways.