Monday of the First Week of Advent
The centurion’s faith
When he 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, Mt 8,5-10
The figure of the centurion seems to come to us from a history book, more than from one page of the gospel. He is not called by name, but he is referred to by his military role, which evokes to us one of the greatest empires which ever existed, the strength and the pride of a victorious army, in contrast to the weakness of a conquered people, of an occupied country. However, our soul feels no hatred for this man of war, because his words are inspired by the faith in the Lord and by a brotherly charity to his servant. Our mind categories, by which we usually judge and classify persons and events, are consequently disarranged. He is an officer of the occupying army, he is one of the dominators, but he is able to recognize his unworthiness to receive Jesus as the Saver. He requires the recovery with humbleness but, by the same time, with a cogent logic, comparing his military authority with the power of Jesus over the evil. Jesus not only welcomes his request but he points out to the present people, and also to the all of us, this roman military as an example of humbleness and faith. This faith, which captures the grace of the Lord, can flourish under a military armour or it can be made barren in a person who has made a life choice, when it becomes routine. It is perhaps because of all of this that the words of this pagan sound so sweet when they re-echo in the church, any time we are close to receive the eucharist: “Lord, I do not deserve it“.