|Today’s Gospel reading by Matthew is a beautiful story about faith and how the Kingdom of God is open to all. We begin with Jesus entering Capernaum, a city with a heavy military presence, and being approached by a centurion. Interesting, in itself, since we certainly see a pattern of Jesus gravitating toward those considered outcasts or who are lost. The centurion approaches Jesus and describes his paralyzed and suffering servant. Without hesitation, Jesus offers to go to his home and to heal him. Although I think any one of us would jump at this opportunity and immediately take Jesus up on the offer, the centurion replies humbly that he is not worthy for Jesus to enter under his roof. Instead, this is a Roman soldier, a non-Jew, who understands authority and, as such, recognizes the authority given to Jesus to heal through not just through his actions, but his words. Thus, humbly and with great faith he asks Jesus to do just that – to “say the word and my servant will be healed.” As a result of this interaction, Jesus is amazed by this man’s humility and faith and comments on how different this man is from those in Israel who are often self-righteous or weak in faith. In fact, Jesus invites those who are humble and strong in faith to recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.
Matthew’s reading provides many lessons. First, it reminds us to refocus first, from me to those in need – much like the centurion cared for his servant, and second, from me to Him. In a society plagued with narcissism it reminds us of the importance of humility; knowing that from humility and a dependence on the Lord comes great faith and the Kingdom of God. Seems odd, but when was the last time you yearned to model after a centurion?