Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Centurion's Faith

Gospel for the Commemoration of Ini Kopuria

 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour. - Matthew 8:5-13

What a story! We're really accustomed to reading the stories of Jesus healing people by touching them, putting dirt and spit on their eyes, even one woman who just touched the fringe of his cloak, but here is a story of curing at a distance, and of the faith that prompted it.

Roman centurions were been seen by the Jews as the enemy since they represented the occupying army in Israel. Roman soldiers kept the peace, but they were also paid from the assessments from the Jews, taxes such as a man named Matthew and another named Zaccheus collected. It earned them the despised name of collaborators. Jesus wasn't put off by their titles or their professions. He had dinner at the home of one, and called the other to be one of his disciples. It isn't surprising that Jesus would offer to help a centurion although the man was not an Israelite and most likely neither was his servant. Jesus rewarded his faith because his faith trusted that Jesus only need say a word to cure another who might be miles away.

I wonder -- if Jesus were here in the flesh today, would I have the faith to go to him and ask him to simply say a word to cure someone I loved? I think that would be easier than asking for a cure for myself. I know I can place whatever I want or need to in Jesus' hands and simply trust that he will take care of it, whatever it is, in his own way and time. I have faith for myself, but when it comes to others I want to be a bit more active, more helpful, rather than simply saying, "I'll pray for you." Prayers are appreciated, but so are casseroles, trips to the store, and sometimes just plain companionable silence.

The Centurion had faith for his servant, and he knew where to go for help. I wonder -- how did he know about Jesus? Where did his faith come from?  Can faith come from desperation? 

One thing strikes me: the scripture calls what Jesus did a healing. What I think, though is that it was indeed a healing, but it wasn't the servant who was healed. The paralysis was cured; it left the servant's body. The healing, I think, was with the centurion who was healed of his worry, grief and desperation. Perhaps he was also restored to wholeness in his heart and soul and that restoration was reflected in his confidence that Jesus could do what was needed. He put his need in Jesus' hands and left it there.

Whether I need healing or curing or just some peace,  I can look to the centurion as an example of taking problems to Jesus and letting him solve them. I've found it's easier to do the older I get. I could worry and obsess about my various diseases and problems, but I'm slowly learning that that does not really help. I never officially said, "Jesus, I can't handle these, so please take them over," but I've found I just surrendered them. Occasionally I take them back for just a short time, but I can again release them and feel healed if not cured. It certainly makes life easier.

I really like the centurion. He has a real grasp on when to use authority and when to use faith. I like the contrast of curing and healing, and it gives me a lot to think about as I go through my day. I look for where curing would help but also where healing is needed. I can also look for where I can be an instrument to help with those in others and to be open to allowing others to do the same for me.

Wherever he is needed, Jesus will be there, I'm positive.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, June 6, 2015


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