The Centurion and Jesus

In today’s gospel, Jesus encounters a Centurion (a Roman military leader) who asks Jesus to perform a miracle by healing his servant, who is gravely ill.  Jesus immediately indicates that he will go to the Centurion’s house to heal the servant.

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

The actions of both Jesus and the Centurion are shocking, to say  the least.  For a Roman soldier to seek out a Jewish rabbi for any non-official purpose must have surprised both his subordinates and Jesus’ followers.  What must have been even more shocking to the disciples was Jesus’ apparent willingness to go to the house of this unclean pagan. To enter the house of such an unworthy person was considered defilement.

Fortunately for both the Centurion and us, Jesus and his benevolent, healing love is not reserved only for those of us who are deemed to be “worthy.”  In fact, as Jesus so frequently reminds us, in his kingdom the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

As the season of Advent begins, let us reflect on the justice of this teaching.  Do we recognize in ourselves the healing of our hearts that must be submitted to God’s mercy? Can we see the necessity of his coming into the world as one of us?  Are we ready to truly be humble before God, and each other?

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