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What Amazes Jesus
Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The 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. For I too am a man 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.” When 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. I 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, but the children of the Kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour his servant was healed. Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him. When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: “He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Opening Prayer: You are thinking of me right now, Lord. I turn to you because I want to think of you right now. I want to hear what you have to say to me today. I want to tell you what is on my heart today. My faith is weak, Lord, and so often my prayer is broken up by distractions. Help me, today, to pray well. Help me to hear your voice in my heart and to believe firmly enough to speak honestly to your heart.
- Am I Reading the Signs?: The series of miracles Jesus performs in this section of St. Matthew’s Gospel are signs of many things—God’s goodness, power, and care, for instance. But they also validate everything Jesus spoke in his Sermon on the Mount during the previous chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel. By revealing his divine power and goodness through such dramatic, miraculous healings and exorcisms, Jesus is making himself a credible witness to his own teaching. He is backing up his words with his deeds. After witnessing these miracles, why would anyone doubt the truth of Christ’s teaching? After witnessing these amazing manifestations of God’s healing and faithful love, why would anyone refuse the invitation to follow the Christian path of living? We may not have witnessed these kinds of miracles firsthand ourselves–though miracles like this have been happening in different parts of the Church throughout her history and even today–but they were recorded in the Gospels for us. We see them, we witness them, through faith, by reading the sacred texts. Have they had the effect on our lives that Jesus wants them to have? If not, what effect have they had? How much have they convinced me that Christ is on my side and that following him closely is the only thing that really matters in life?
- Unleashing the Power of Grace: This centurion was not Jewish, not a member of Christ’s own people. And yet, he shows firm faith in Christ’s Messianic authority and power. So much so that his prayer to Jesus has been immortalized in the words of the Mass. Every time we go to Mass, before receiving Holy Communion, we repeat what this centurion said: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” What do we mean when we say this? The centurion’s meaning was clear. He understood that whatever grace Jesus wanted to give him would be given solely out of Christ’s infinite generosity and unlimited power. The centurion knew that he didn’t really deserve Christ’s grace, but he also knew that he needed it and that Jesus was willing and able to give it. How deeply do I feel the need for God’s grace in my life? How firmly do I believe that when Jesus gives himself to me in the Eucharist he does so because he wants to bring the saving power of his grace to bear on the needs of my mind, heart, and soul? The more deeply I believe this, the more fully I realize my need for God’s saving grace to heal and nourish my life, the more that grace will be unleashed within me. Jesus pointed this out to the centurion, and he points it out to us: “… as you believed, let it be done for you.”
- Amazing Faith: St. Matthew tells us that Jesus “was amazed” by the faith and understanding of this non-Jewish centurion. Jesus, true God, is also true man. Our choices, then, really matter to him and can affect him. We have the power to give Jesus joy, to amaze him by our trust in him. And we also have the power to sadden him, to cause him pain by turning away from him. In a sense, God has limited his omnipotence in our regard. He refuses to force us into living life as we were created to live it. Instead, he allows us to choose either to walk with him or to go it alone. He wants us to choose, every day, to walk with him, to follow him and bear witness to him. He knows that is the path leading to the “more abundant life” (cf. John 10:10) we all yearn for. And he surrounds us with invitations and motivation to help us make the right decision in each circumstance of our lives. But he respects the space of freedom he built into our hearts. He won’t violate it. And so, that space of freedom becomes a place where we can touch the very heart of God—either with the joy-giving embrace of trust, or with the piercing thorn of rejection. Which will be my touch today?
Conversing with Christ: Why is it so hard for me to believe in you and trust you sometimes? Why do I fret and fear in the face of life’s challenges? Why do I doubt you? My faith is so weak, Lord! I want to believe in you with all my heart! I want to trust in you always and everywhere. I want to make choices in my life that allow the beauty of your grace to flood my soul and overflow into the lives of everyone around me. Teach me, Lord, to amaze you with the depth of my faith and trust.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will either go to Mass or make a visit to a Eucharistic chapel, and I will pray the prayer of the centurion with all my heart, acknowledging my deep need for your saving grace, and trusting wildly in your generous desire to pour that grace upon me: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
For Further Reflection: Spiritual Smoothie: An Easy Way to Trust God More.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.