Luke 1:46-47, 48-49, 50, 53, 54-55
Gospel: Matthew 8:5-17
Up to this point in Matthewís gospel, we experience Jesus proclaiming the presence of the Kingdom of God. With this passage, we begin to experience Jesus who reveals in action that he is indeed the Messiah who will usher in this Kingdom. Through both Jesusí words and deeds he proclaims Godís nearness to his people and Godís tender compassion for us in our struggles.
A key agent who at this point in the Gospel inspires Jesus to move into action is the Roman centurion. This man was not a Jew, yet he moves Jesus to want to help him. The centurion was a man of authority and great esteem among his soldiers. In a Roman legion there were 6,000 men, containing 60 centuries of 100 men each. In command of each century there was a centurion. This man of the Gospel, then, was a man of action himself. He had served, and had received the trust of leadership. He saw in Jesus both of these as well: that Jesus was one who had come to serve, and that he was a leader.
One thing that impressed Jesus about this leader, the centurion, was his attitude to his servant who was sick. He loved his servant, and wanted him to be well. This moved Jesus, because in his own day servants were treated as property, as things. They were given no more compassion from their masters than a piece of furniture. This centurion was different, however, in the way he treated his servant. The love this man had for his servant moved Jesus to see that there was something different about him.
What also impressed Jesus about this leader, was the faith he displayed in Jesusí power. He believed (demonstrated by his words) that Jesus didnít even have to come near to his servant in order to heal him. The centurion knew the Jewish teachings well, because of working so closely with them. He therefore knew that it was not permitted for Jesus, a Jew, to enter the house of this gentile without making himself ritually unclean. The man therefore displayed his faith in Jesusí power, and at the same time showed his sensitivity to the religious beliefs of the Jewish people. Jesus marveled at the wisdom, faith, and love of this man, and granted him what he had asked for.
In todayís passage from Genesis, Abraham also demonstrates this same faith in Godís power to do what seems impossible. To the listeners of the centurionís request, and to Sarah who listened to Godís plan, it seemed foolish to believe God could truly do what was being spoken out loud: to heal a servant from far away, and to make a childless eighty year old man the father of a nation of people. Despite what others may have thought or said, God saw the faith of Abraham and of the centurion, and granted them what was sought for in faith.
Today, as in the days of Abraham, and as in the days of the Roman
centurion, we are called by God to have expectant faith. We see each
day how God keeps the universe in beautiful harmony, how all the creatures
of nature are sustained, how God keeps our human bodies in motion through
the beating of our hearts, the coursing of blood through our veins, and
the breathing of air into our lungs, all without our even thinking about
it. As a Catholic priest, I am moved each day by the celebration
of the Eucharist, God turns ordinary bread and wine into Jesus, risen and
glorified for us all. We are surrounded by Godís miracles each day.
We need to come to God with expectant faith for our daily needs, knowing
that Godís love for us is infinitely greater than the love of the centurion
who wanted his servant to be whole. Trust in the words of the angel
to Mary: ďNothing is impossible for God.Ē
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