Matthew 8: 5-11
5 ¶ And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
Today’s Bible verses present an extraordinary scene. The centurion is not merely a Gentile; he is an officer of the occupying Roman army – the enemy! – and he comes to a Jew for help. Further to this, the centurion has come to Jesus to ask him to help his servant. This might seem to us an awful lot of care expressed by a Roman officer for a servant, whom we might presume to be a slave. Further to this, the centurion has the tact to know that Jesus should not enter into a Gentile’s house, because this would be seen by the Jews as making him impure. And further to this, the centurion has the faith to know that Jesus’ power is such that he doesn’t even need to be physically present with the sick for the sick to be healed. This, as Jesus says, is faith indeed.
The centurion’s faith remains with us as an example to us all. When we are about to receive Christ in the Eucharist, we speak from the heart, we pray, with the centurion’s words: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word…’ Our contrition and our humility before Christ goes hand in hand with the beautiful knowledge that we are called by Christ to be with him and for our souls to be thereby healed. Our emptying of ego, of self, as we give ourselves wholly to Christ and his mercy is as echo in our day of the centurion’s faith 2000 years ago.
Jesus marvels at the centurion’s faith, as well he might. Jesus now declares that his saving gift is to be to all people everywhere. He has come to heal Gentiles as well as the Jews, to welcome all to the banquet of God’s chosen people.
‘The Church wants us to understand that as he came once into the world in the flesh, so now, if we remove all barriers, he is ready to come to us again at any minute or hour, to make his home spiritually within us in all his grace… She shows us how to receive this great gift of God with thankfulness and how to be enriched by its possession. She teaches us that our hearts should be as prepared now for the coming of Christ our Lord as if he were still to come into the world.’ St Charles Borromeo