The Centurion’s Example

Matthew 8: 5-17
Lam 2:2,10-14,18-19/ Ps 74:1-7, 20-21

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)

By submitting to Christ’s dominion
We shall win a place of honor,
Just as Christ praised the Centurion
Whose humility was his armor.

As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached Him, and appealed to Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” And He said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Jesus entered Peter’s house, and saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever; He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8: 5-17)

Reflection

After He had healed a leper, a Roman Centurion next came up to Jesus to appeal for the healing of his slave. While the leper was treated with contempt by the Jewish community, the Centurion was accorded their highest honor and respect, because “he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us” (according to the version of Luke, 7:5). The Centurion was a heathen, and the leper was a Jew. But Jesus never made any distinction between the two. And just as He was willing to touch the leper who was considered “unclean”, He was just as ready to be “defiled” by entering the house of a pagan. What put both men in the same good graces with our Lord was their strong faith in His healing power.

Jesus was immediately won over by the Roman centurion, not by his power and authority, but by his humility and his compassion for his servant. His approach was one of surrender, begging for the life of his slave. But more than these, Jesus was impressed by the soldier’s strong faith. “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And it is a rare quality in a man who wields political or military power to humble himself before anyone under his authority or jurisdiction. The centurion was a Roman officer in charge of a hundred soldiers. Centurions were known to be fierce soldiers, and were thus respected and feared by the people Rome had subjugated. But this Centurion who sought the help of Jesus was different, because his life was ruled by love, love for the Jewish nation, and love for his slave. Love defined the strength of his character, matched only by his great faith in Jesus.

The example of the Centurion in today’s Gospel teaches us that to win the hearts of others, we must first conquer what is within. The world is not the battlefield; it is our mind and heart. And the prize at stake is our soul. Like the Centurion who showed great faith in the authority of Jesus, we must aspire for “a faith like none other found in Israel.” There are still many battles to fight in this life before one can win such an accolade from our Lord. In the meantime, what is most important is first to forge the armor of humility, for there lies the true worth of a good soldier. Jesus was immediately won over by the Roman centurion, but not by his power and authority, but by his humility and his compassion for his servant. The soldier’s approach was one of surrender, begging for the life of his slave. This is the lesson that our Lord imparts to us so that we may be made whole.

Help us, Father God to develop humility in our strength, compassion for our enemies, and faith in times of trouble, so that like the Centurion in today’s Gospel, we also may win the praise of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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