Advent 1 – Monday

Matt 8:5-11

The Centurion’s Servant

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

Jesus heals a paralyzed servant of a Roman officer, a centurion, neither going to his house nor praying over. He just says the “word.” This centurion, a Gentile, displays that faith in Jesus is to be lived in compassion towards others. Slaves do not have rights in that society but the centurion displays respect and deep concern to the sick servant. Moreover, he also shows concern in the person of Jesus by not bothering him to come to his house. This is not being inhospitable but according to rabbinical tradition, to enter the house of a Gentile would be to defile oneself. So he says, “Only say the word and my servant will be healed,” (v. 8).

The healing of the disabled servant by Jesus starts with a human concern. (Fr. Randy Flores, SVD Bible Diary 2002)

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Several years back I read in our seminary bulletin board Cardinal Sin’s circular letter on the general prohibition to celebrate Masses in private houses. From then on I turned down many requests for Eucharistic celebrations, mostly from rich people, who prefer to have “special masses” in the privacy of their homes.

In today’s gospel it was the requesting Roman centurion who turned down Jesus’ willingness to go to his house in order to heal his servant boy (v. 7 “I will come and heal him”). By virtue of the centurion’s authority in the community, he could have easily requested Jesus to come to his house to heal his servant boy. Yet, his request was only for the servant boy’s healing. His knowledge of Jesus and faith in the latter far exceeds any normal expectation from an “atheistic” Roman military officer (v. 8 “I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed”). Even Jesus was greatly impressed by the faith of this humble and undemanding man (v. 10b: “I have not found such faith in Israel’).

How many times have we exploited other people by virtue of our authority? What are the “essentials” and “non-essentials” of our religious practices. (Fr. Ed Fuguso, SVD Bible Diary 2004)

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On my first birthday I was dying. The nurse had given me up to two days earlier. No doctor was around. Hopeless and helpless, my mother told my father to ask permission from the parish priest to bring the statue of the Our Lady of Miraculous Medal from the church to our house so that if I die, I die in the presence of our Blessed Mother. When my father came home with the statue he placed it closed to my bed facing me. I was motionless, hardly breathing since the night before. My mother kept holding my pulse. After some hours she felt the pulsation. At Angelus time in the evening I opened my eyes a little; then slowly, slowly I looked at my mother. She offered her milk and I responded. Gradually my breathing and pulsation returned to normal. Slowly I recovered in the presence of Our Blessed Mother. My parents and elders took it as a miracle.

This was the most beautiful story related to me by my mother. And she added that on that very moment she entrusted my whole life to Our Lady and to her Son. That was why when they knew I was going to enter the convent they just cried silently without uttering a word of opposition, although I knew my father was against it.

Now when I get sick I take one kind of medicine after another as per doctor’s prescription, of course. When my mother would feel ill she prepared one rosary after another and put the medicine tablets under her pillow.

The cure of the centurion’s servant boy was instant. My cure was gradual. But in both cases it was faith that wrought the miracle. (Sr. Angelita Roferos, SSpS Bible Diary 2005)

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We are a people living in interim period both historical and spiritual. We are in between the first coming of Jesus in Bethlehem and his future coming in majesty. A lot of people speculate about the future. Christians pray and hope for the future which is nothing but the Messiah revealing himself as king and welcoming everyone to the Father’s kingdom. The first reading reminds us that the future above all is the unity of all people. There is no more separation and division. All of the world’s energies are focused on achieving and preserving peace.

The centurion in today’s gospel is a representative of humanity and humanity’s desire for healing, for peace and for unity. The centurion reminds us that in every human heart is a desire for the well being of the other. As we desire for healing, for peace and for unity let us take time to stop and appreciate those who have expressed this desire in their lives. To them Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Healing, peace and unity are very man’s dream. This dream makes Christmas a faith experience and not just a holiday. (Fr. Ramoncito S. Rebucias, SVD Bible Diary 2006)

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Whenever we find ourselves occupying positions of power and authority we experience a bit of what the centurion in today’s gospel was saying. We tell our subordinates or employees to do something and they usually act on it. Our word is sufficient to get things moving. Our word is powerful.

The centurion amazed Jesus because he truly believed that the word of Jesus was sufficient to heal his servant. The centurion revealed also in his action how he valued his servant; he made the effort to contact Jesus for the sake of his servant. The centurion showed a faith not expected from his kind.

Jesus took this opportunity to show that the Kingdom is open to people like the centurion and those outside the Jewish race. The gift of faith ceased to be a monopoly of the Jews. This incident with the centurion underscored the universality of the Kingdom – “…many will come from the East and the West.” It was a portent of things to come, a glimpse of the impending missionary activities of the apostles – the good news of the kingdom being proclaimed all over the world.

Even now, as the missionary work of the church continues, we continually encounter people from different cultures and faiths who exhibit qualities of the centurion. We continue to realize in our dialogue with other faiths that we do not have a monopoly of goodness and faith. And we come to learn the true meaning of dialogue – discovering the innate goodness in everyone. (Fr. Gil Alejandria, SVD Bible Diary 2007)

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What a beautiful, heartwarming, consoling and yet very dynamic and dramatic gospel to help us get started in our Advent preparation for Christmas.

There are so many dimensions to be considered in pondering and praying this gospel. We can place ourselves in the shoes of the centurion so concerned for the health of his servant that he approached this itinerant Jewish preacher for help. Why like that? He, after all, is a soldier-member of the military forces occupying the Holy Land. He is an officer in-charge of one hundred soldiers and for that reason called a centurion (century i.e. 100).

At the same time, he shows such humility that it might take our breath away. So much so, that this military man is now memorialized every single day in every Mass for the words he said to Jesus: “I am not worthy to have you under my roof, only say the word…”

Or we can take the place of the servant boy – “paralyzed, suffering painfully” and try to think his thoughts, feel his feelings. Possibly, he is astonished that he, seemingly the lowest of the low in society, deserves the attention of this powerful military man. And there already is the first gift he receives – the gift of being respected and given dignity as a human being. Then his paralysis and suffering are lifted and disappear into thin air – the final gift given to him as the result of the intercessions of his master to the Jewish preacher Jesus.

Or finally, we might dwell more on Jesus’ reaction to the words of the centurion: “Jesus showed amazement….” Are we not surprised but happy too that Jesus can be amazed! He can be so like us which must then amaze us!

So as we begin our Advent season, we can be so grateful that each of us is able to hope and to have the promise to be part of the “many….(to) come from the east and the west (to) find a place at the banquet of God (Fr. John Patrick McSherry, SVD Bible Diary 2008)

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The disciples felt hopeless before the hungry crowd, how to give them enough food. Jesus told them to count their blessings. After all they were not empty-handed for they had “seven loaves and a few fish.” It seldom happens that we are without any assets, yet we do not consider these for we notice only what is lacking.

Every person has qualities which deserve appreciation and which can be developed. No matter how little we have to offer, God can work with them and achieve great things. In the creation story, God created man from dust. Jesus fed thousands with seven loaves and a few fish.

God’s words on a couple’s marriage when there is an investment of love, not of money or beauty. If there is no real love, even a little to start with, God has nothing to multiply. If money or beauty is gone, no bond is left to unite them. If love brings them together, hardships will not be a threat to their marriage; on the contrary, these will strengthen their unity.

If parents have no living faith, the baptism of their child will be nothing more than a social affair – with no bearing on their child’s future life. The water that is poured on the child’s head at baptism only flows over a barren rock. If parents appear in baptism with the desire to raise the child as a good Christian, God will them in their task.

When we are overwhelmed by problem and responsibilities in life, do not complain and give up too easily. Count your blessings and assets. You have with you your “seven loaves and a few fish.” Jesus will work on what you have and multiply it many times more. (Fr. Jun de ocampo, SVD Bible Diary 2009)

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December 3, 2012

St. Francis Xavier, priest
(M) WHITE

Is 2:1-5
Ps 122
Mt 8:5-11

Mt 8:5-11
The Healing of a centurion’s Servant 

5When [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, 6saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” 7He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” 8The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. 9For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven.”

REFLECTION:

My servant is lying at home paralyzed. Would you go out of your way to help someone who is not related to you? Would you sacrifice your time for persons unimportant to you?

This is what the centurion does for his servant. The centurion (from the Latin centum, one hundred) is a Roman officer in command of 100 soldiers. He is a man of authority, a master with power of life and death over people in his charge. Servants have no rights of their own. They are seen not as persons but as objects at the disposal of their masters.

Yet the centurion shows great concern for the welfare of his servant who is thus considered a person, a friend, even a member of the family. In his desire to find healing for his servant, the centurion sets his power, authority, and reputation aside just to approach Jesus. He personally seeks and appeals to Jesus for the health of his servant.

We do not need titles and positions to approach Jesus. We can go to him any time and present our case. He is most certainly pleased with our desire and effort to grow in intimate relationship with him and in service to others.

Do you appreciate the service rendered by people who work for you and do you strive to improve their lives?

ssp.ph/index.php/online-resources/366-days-with-the-lord/2095-december-3-2012

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See Today’s Readings:  Year I,  Year II

Back to: Monday of the First Week of Advent

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