A Soldier’s Humility & Compassion

Matthew 8: 5-11
Isa 4: 2-6 / Ps 122: 1-9

Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.
(Matthew 8: 8)

What does it take to be Christ’s soldier
To win the battlefield within?
All it takes is total surrender,
And for God’s gift of discipline.

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 person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. 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…” (Mt.8:5-11)

Reflection

That Roman centurion had no intention of inviting Jesus to his house, but simply believed that by relating his concern, the Lord could effect a healing miracle for his servant with a simple command.

This soldier of Rome should be our model if we aspire to be a soldier of Christ. First of all, as shown in today’s Gospel, he had genuine compassion for his servant who was “paralyzed and suffering dreadfully” (8:6). He went out of his way to seek out the Lord Jesus for help. The commander’s compassion was matched only by his humility, shown in his willingness to beg for assistance, assuming the role of his own servant, his high station notwithstanding, and pleading from one who was supposed to be under his rule. I wonder how many of us, under whose authority a hundred subordinates defer and obey, will personally attend to the needs of our servant when we learn that he is ill? Wouldn’t we rather put the burdensome affair into the hands of our assistant? Maybe even assume that the matter will be taken care of by one of our subordinates?

Being compassionate and humble, it was but natural that this man would also be respectful, as well as considerate of other peoples’ customs and traditions. When Jesus said He would go with him to heal his servant, the centurion responded, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter my house” (he didn’t want Jesus’ principles as a Jew compromised by entering a gentile’s house). And best of all, the centurion showed great faith in the power of God’s Word.

To be a soldier of Christ is to know that the greatest battle that must first be won is happening within. The world is not the battlefield; it is our mind and heart. And the prize at stake is our soul. The virtues of compassion, humility, respect and faith will not serve us well unless we first commit to “subject ourselves to authority” and discipline. That is why we intone the same words of the Roman Centurion before we invite Jesus into our hearts when we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”

We offer You our life, Lord God, to mold according to Your will. Help us to discipline our base desires; bend our will to become humble, compassionate, respectful, and faithful to all Your commands as a good soldier should. Amen.

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