Monday of the First Week

Readings

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


Reflection

Today’s Gospel illustrates a rather profound message concerning humility coupled with compassion. In its brevity, a Roman centurion, who essentially is the “cats pajamas” (in terms of power; they weren’t well-loved by Israelites) in Israel during this time, approaches Jesus, who superficially is this radical Jew that has gone throughout Israel preaching and performing miracles, asks Jesus to come help his sick servant. The power dynamics here are clearly jarring; the ancient equivalent to if Steve Jobs asked a McDonalds worker for money for his landscaper’s heart surgery. The analogy doesn’t translate perfectly, but you get the point – this is confusing. Why doesn’t the centurion take advantages of the resources available to him by association with the Roman Empire? Faith.

Jesus is stunned by this centurion’s faith and agrees to come and help his sick servant. But what is so stunning about this interaction is the centurion’s reaction: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” To those who are Catholic, these words are all too familiar as we utter them just before we receive Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass. However, this story isn’t about the centurion receiving Jesus, but rather him pleading on behalf of his sick servant. Again, this is perplexing: why would a centurion of the Roman Empire plead on behalf of a life that is essentially disposable to him? Couldn’t he just acquire a new servant? In such a brief text, it seems clear that the centurion is deeply compassionate (Latin:cum pati- to suffer with) to the needs of the lowly; he recognizes the dignity of the human person.

I invite you during this advent season to think about the faith, the humility, and the wildly evident compassion of this centurion. How are we to humble ourselves to be able to plead on behalf of another? How can this story translate to our contemporary experience? Are we the centurion? The servant? Jesus? Or maybe the crowd watching this interaction occur… “Lord am I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Steven Schillig, ‘19
Philosophy and Theology and Religious Studies Major
Physics Minor