Gospel: Matthew 8:5-11
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 man 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.”
Matthew’s gospel today tells us of a healing of a servant. This story is also told in Luke (7:1-10) and in a pretty different way in John’s gospel (4:46-54). A centurion would have been a commander of sorts who led 100 men in battle. He was quite used to giving orders and others followed his demands without question. However, the centurion is a Gentile. Despite the fact that Jesus offered to come with him, he knew that if a Jewish man entered his home, he might become defiled just by virtue of the customs of his household. And so, he took it on faith that Jesus could and would cure his servant from a distance. In Luke’s gospel, the centurion sends elders to intercede for him. Luke’s gospel further extends the faith of the centurion through the elders and finally to Jesus. Clearly this servant is very important to the centurion. In fact, in John’s gospel, the cure is for the centurion’s son and he wanted healing because he was concerned that his son was dying. What faith the centurion had! He believed that Jesus had not only the ability to cure, but would do so lovingly and with humble heart.
At the end of this gospel reading, Jesus reminds us all that those with faith will be at his table in the Kingdom of heaven. And so, in reflection, let’s think about prayer. How often do we pray for those around us? Those who are in pain, suffering from poverty or illness, those who struggle with addictions and mental illnesses or those who are homeless? How often do we pray for those who have died and for those who mourn? We pray for our families, our friends and for each other. Many of us can recount a time where we knew the power of our prayer, along with the prayers of others, resulted in a miraculous recovery. In fact, as clergy, we pray each and every day in the way it’s been done for thousands of years with possibly billions of others doing the same. We do this because we know Jesus came to our earth in order to be our Savior. We feel the Holy Spirit in our hearts when we love others and in our minds when we make good, sound decisions. We feel God’s grace with each brilliant new day and all of this confirms our faith in Jesus even though we’ve never seen with our own eyes the performance of miracles directly by his hand.
We pray each time we’re at the Eucharistic table, “I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” And we know when we consume his body that this action will bring us to everlasting life. We know when we drink his blood that this action will bring us to everlasting life. So, over the course of this Advent season, let us continue to pray reverently and share the holy Eucharist because our actions are driven by our love of God and by his grace our faith is made strong.
Loving Father, Open our hearts to hidden realities: your love for all people, your presence in the community, your call to justice and peace. May the sacraments stir in us that same love for those with whom we worship and all members of our human family.
Christ Jesus, Help us to imitate your example: healing the sick, welcoming the stranger, assisting the poor and vulnerable. May the sacraments remind us of your love and self-giving, which we strive to imitate.
Holy Spirit, Make visible to our eyes what is invisible: your call to your people, your summons to live our faith daily as witnesses of justice and peace. May the sacraments move us to engage in love-inspired action that transforms us and the world. Amen
Rev. Dcn. Cheryl Smith
Deacon at St. Joseph of Arimathea ANCC