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MONDAY HOMILY: The Faithful Centurion

By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds
September 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The centurion's greeting made such a deep impression upon Jesus and his disciples that they were preserved in the ancient liturgy of the Church. We repeat them at Mass before receiving Holy Communion: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word an my soul shall be healed."

CATHOLIC ONLINE (Sugar Land, TX)  Amidst the ruins of Capernaum are the remains of an ancient synagogue.  Archeologists believe that the structure dates from the fourth or fifth century.  Underneath, there are indications of an earlier structure, which may be all that remains of the synagogue mentioned by St. Luke as having been built by a Roman centurion (see Luke 7:1-10).

The people of Capernaum describe this man one who loves the Jewish nation (Luke 7:5).  This is not as remarkable as it sounds.  Even though the Romans were an occupying force in the Holy Land, they generally respected the customs of the various peoples who were incorporated into their Empire.

In fact, even though conquered peoples were subject to Roman law, and thus required to offer sacrifices to the Emperor as if he were a god, the Jews were exempt from this requirement.  The Romans respected the antiquity of the Israelite culture and therefore tolerated the Jewish self - understanding which excluded the possibility of Emperor - worship.  In gratitude, Temple priests offered sacrifices and prayers for the Emperor in Jerusalem.

So, even though he was part of an occupying force in Galilee, it is not inconceivable that the centurion of the Gospel would have a respect and affection for the Jewish people. 

St. Luke tells us that during one of Jesus' visits to Capernaum, the centurion sends some residents of the town to interceded with Jesus on behalf of the soldier's slave, who is near death.  The centurion could have gone himself, but he may have stayed behind in order to care for this servant, who was dear to him.  When Jesus arrived at the house, the centurion receives him, saying, "I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. but say the word and let my servant be healed" (Luke 7:6-7).

The centurion's greeting made such a deep impression upon Jesus and his disciples that they were preserved in the ancient liturgy of the Church.  We repeat them at Mass before receiving Holy Communion: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word an my soul shall be healed."

One of the remarkable characteristics of the centurion's faith is his understanding of authority.  As a "person subject to authority" (Luke 7:8), the centurion understands the use of power.  He expects his orders to be obeyed.

Somehow, the centurion recognizes that a special power is at work in Jesus of Nazareth.  Since so much of the Lord's public ministry took place in the area around Capernaum, it is likely that the centurion saw Jesus and heard him speak on various occasions.  Perhaps he witnessed some of the miracles that Jesus performed there.  In light of the evidence, the centurion draws the only logical conclusion: Jesus commands with divine power.

Believing this as well, we ought to have complete confidence in the Risen Lord.  He wants us to have the fullness of life, nurtured by the divine grace communicated to us through the sacraments.  Jesus makes it so easy for us to approach him.  He invites us into his house, and offers us the divine food of his Body and Blood. 

As we approach that sacred banquet, we do well to imitate the humility and trust of the centurion, in the hope of receiving the healing and wholeness we desire.

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Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.

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