2- Reading and understanding the Gospel: The Faith of the Centurion (Mt 8:5-13)
5When he went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. 6 “Sir,” he said, “my servant is lying at home paralyzed, and in great pain.” 7 “I will come myself and cure him,” said Jesus. 8The centurion replied, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. 9For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this. 11And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; 12but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” 13And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.” And the servant was cured at that moment.
2. 1- Explanation
Jesus entered Capernaum and, when the Centurion came forward to him explaining the condition of his sick servant, Jesus at once went to heal him. The initiative of Jesus is a clear demonstration of how he superseded the Jewish tradition that prohibited Jews from entering pagan homes for fear of impurity. This universal opening to redemption is clear in Matthew’s Gospel, from the very first pages, when the Magi came to worship the Child Jesus. The great desire of Jesus is to bring salvation to all people, provided they have faith in him. Jesus dispenses all ethnic differences, and offers salvation to everyone, irrespective of ethnic origin or nationality.
This initiative of Jesus is followed almost immediately by the most humble response in faith by the Centurion, who considers himself unworthy of welcoming the Messiah, sent from God. He elaborates, saying that he orders his soldiers from afar and does not need to face them when giving them orders. He suggests that Jesus can do likewise and heal “from afar”, without having to touch the patient.
At this point, Jesus praises the faith of the pagan Centurion, who shows deep humility and surrender to the powerful word of Jesus. The people of Israel have failed to reach such faith, despite the firm promises of salvation at the end of time. The image of a banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven is not a material expression, but a biblical symbol (Is 25:6; Ps 107:3), indicating the super-abundance of unending joy. In conclusion, Jesus sends the Centurion on his way with confidence, saying: “you have believed, so let this be done for you.” Jesus shows us that thanks to faith, we can have our sins forgiven (Mt 9:2), perform miracles (Mt 17 20), and receive everything we ask for (Mt 21:22), for our eternal salvation.
2. 2- Summary and Practice
This passage of the Gospel brings good news to us: it shows how the powerful word of Jesus can heal from afar, and unveils the universal dimension of salvation granted to us by Jesus, knowing no limits of ethnicity or nationality, but relying totally on genuine faith in the Word of God.
From this follows on this question: “How do you describe your faith in God?” Do you fervently desire Paradise and its material rewards in embracing the Christian faith? Are you living your progress in faith with humility and submission to the will of God or else do you constantly resist all that afflicts you in life? Are you aware that Jesus is omnipotent and can transform your worries and illnesses into glory and resurrection? Through his Incarnation, death and Resurrection, Jesus did not do away with evil from the world, but has transformed it, in ourselves, into blessed hope. Jesus came to liberate humanity from the most painful form of slavery, that of sin. Therefore, we are required, before it is too late, to repent of our sinful past, and to commit ourselves to the Kingdom of God, in a life of faith, in our words and in our actions.