June 28, 2008
Saint Irenaeus, bishop. Memorial
Matthew 8: 5-17
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. 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, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." And Jesus said to the centurion, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you." And at that very hour his servant was healed. Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him. When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: ‘He took away our infirmities and bore out diseases.’
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I place myself in your presence. I have set aside this moment for you, so that you can speak to me and I can listen to your words. Speak to my heart! I believe that you are present, with all the graces I need right now, in the current circumstances of my life. I hope in you, Lord, because I know I cannot place my hope in the things of the world. I love you, Lord, and I know how much you love me.
Petition: Lord God, grant me faith!
1. The Centurion’s Faith As the centurion, his armor glistening in the sun, pushed his way to the front of the crowd, the disciples began to scoff. What could this Roman want? They never expected our Lord to turn to them in amazement and say, “In no one in Israel have I found such faith.” In other words: “Take note. This man’s faith is greater than your own!” Let’s stop here to think: What was the difference between the centurion’s faith and the disciples’? Perhaps it was the humility and sincerity with which he made his request to our Lord. Yes, the centurion was strong in stature, wielding earthly power; yet he humbly recognized that Jesus’ authority was far beyond his own. Yes, he was a man who probably had seen much brutality throughout his life; yet he still had genuine love and concern for his ill servant. Perhaps what amazed Christ the most was that the centurion had full confidence his petition would be granted even before he asked.
2. Christ Amazed Walking on water, healing the sick, multiplying the loaves—these and many other miracles had filled Jesus’ disciples with awe; yet this is the first time we read that Jesus himself was amazed. Why? Our Lord’s miracles were meant to bring his followers to have faith in him as the Son of God, yet so many remained obstinate in their disbelief. Suddenly a centurion, whose life was given to war, who had never set foot in the Temple, who had never listened to a discourse of a scribe, approaches Jesus with a mature faith. When Jesus heard his words he was amazed. This soldier, because of his humility, had grasped who Jesus was—something that many who had spent so much time with him had yet to do. Perhaps, for this reason, we repeat the centurion’s words at Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” Let us strive to complement our faith with true humility.
3. Christ Lived for Others “Then, when it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits, and cured the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: ‘He took away our infirmities and bore out diseases.’” Here we have an insight into what Jesus’ personality was like. He stands at Peter’s doorstep, in the cool evening air, casting out demons and curing the sick. Why doesn’t he rest? He has had a busy day. He has spent hours upon hours preaching, healing, listening; he has been amazed by the centurion’s faith; he has healed Simon’s mother-in-law; now, finally, he has a moment to rest as she gets up to prepare him a well-deserved meal. Yet, as he sits down to dine, he notices the people gathering outside. They are like sheep without a shepherd: sick, possessed, ignorant, lost—his heart will not allow him a moment of rest. He must continue to give his life for the people he has come to redeem.
Dialogue with Christ: “O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen” (Actus Fidei in Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 191).
Resolution: The next time I am at Mass, I will say the prayer, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…”, with attention and sincere fervor.
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