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Epiphany-Denaha,7thS,Feb.20,11

Denaha-7th S,Feb.20,11

(Mt.8:5-13)

A few years ago, an engineering student was in charge of making arrangements for masses for the Catholic students of Rose-Hulman Institute of Engineering in Terre Haute, Indiana. He also was the one who gave rides to the priest to say the mass. One Sunday night when he brought the priest to the students’ lounge where the mass was to be said, he found that he had lost the key to the hall. He saw all the students standing in front of the hall waiting for it to be opened. He felt ashamed and deeply troubled. All of a sudden he knelt down beside the car , before the priest and students, and prayed to the Lord to help him. Then,he stood up and looked around, and lo and behold , he saw the key lying a few feet away from him. What struck every one that was there was the strength of his faith. He was confident that the Lord would help him. There was no sense of diffidence or shame in kneeling down and praying for help.

It is about such expressions of faith that the Lord deals with in today’s Gospel. Jesus praises the centurion for his faith and his trust in Him.

The centurion was a Roman soldier working for the emperor of Rome. He had a hundred soldiers under him. He was vested with great power by the emperor. The Jews were under his control. It is this man who is recognized as a person of authority who comes before the Lord and sees in him a power that is even above that of his emperor. When the centurion’s servant fell ill, he finds all remedies useless and finds that Jesus has the power to heal him. He recognizes the Divine Power of Jesus which the Jews could not even grasp. The one who never read the prophets and never heard about the interventions of God in history realizes all of a sudden that Jesus is far superior to the emperor of Rome. He did not want Jesus to walk towards his house. He just asks Jesus to speak a word and that would be enough to give health to his servant. The words that he uttered have become the words that every Christian utters before he receives the Eucharist: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Jesus praises his faith publicly by saying that not even in Israel He has found such faith. He points out that it is not nationality or race that is going to decide one’s path to salvation but strong faith in God.

The centurion is a model for great faith. His profound sense of humility is seen in his words and actions. In a worldly sense, it was very outrageous on his part as a Roman soldier to come to a Jew for help. Throwing aside such considerations, he comes before the real authority and feels his place before him. He recognizes that the person standing before him is not just a teacher or a prophet but more and above than all these. The centurion recognizes the Divine Presence in Jesus.

Also he does not ask anything for himself. He asks this great favor for his servant. What we find in this centurion is another noble trait of character: his profound sense of humanity. Compassion and solicitude for the welfare for another drives him to come before Jesus. He is acknowledging the authority and power of Jesus publicly before a crowd endangering his own reputation and position. But, he is not afraid to acknowledge his faith publicly.

What we gather from this encounter between Jesus and the centurion are the various facets of faith that are needed in our life. Our faith should be characterized by humanity and humility as reflected in the life of the centurion.

Many a time we are puffed up with our pride in our talents and gifts and become very arrogant in our dealings with people. The Christian dimension of our faith does not make any impact on our life. In our exercise of authority as parents, teachers and ministers, we are not much different from the non-Christians.

We should reflect on the transformation that has happened in the life of the centurion because of his faith. He becomes profoundly humble as well as very caring. As Christians, our lives too should be characterized by such humility and compassion.

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