The Healing of a Centurion’s Slave
One time I was asked by a pleasant-looking woman to anoint an elderly sick woman. I went to their house and I saw people around the bed of this sick woman comforting her and then I proceeded with the celebration of the Sacrament. After the celebration, I asked the woman who asked me if she is their mother. She said: ‘No, Father, she is our maid. She did not get married just for the sake of us. She served us for more than fifty years but we consider her as our second mother and a member of the family.” You know, I admired them for doing such thing to this sick woman.
The elders of the Jews, whom the centurion sent, come to Jesus in a fervent prayer and intercede in behalf of the centurion. They ask Him to cure the centurion’s sick slave. It is because he was reputedly good; he did so much for the nation and was so considerate of the people’s welfare. “He built the synagogue for us,” the people said. I’m sure he is really good. He even admitted that he was unworthy to have Jesus enter his home. He had high respect for every person, a slave or not, Jew or non-Jew. And besides, where can we ever find, during the time of Jesus and even before, a master of the house who would take the trouble to beg somebody a favor in behalf of his slave? It would be more logical for a slave to beg and die for his master. Besides, a slave is nobody. He has no rights. But what is given more emphasis here is the kind of prayer that the elders, as well as that of the centurion, had to Jesus. This prayer is called Intercession.
The Protestant Reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564) said something about this kind of prayer as quoted in Anne J. Townsend’s Prayer Without Pretending (p.82) and is found in the 365 Days with the Lord 2007. He said: “Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden which we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellowmen that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.”
What does the prayer of intercession consist? Intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It conforms us and unites us to the prayer of Jesus who intercedes with the Father for all, especially sinners. Intercession must extend even to one’s enemies. Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2634) says: “Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners (Rom 8:34). He is ‘able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them,’ (Heb 7:25). The Holy Spirit, ‘Himself intercedes for us…and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.’” (Rom 8:26-27)
And so let us be like the centurion and the elders of the Jews and then intercede with God on behalf of other people asking for His help.