First Monday of Advent, Dec. 4
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” (Mt 8:5-7).
The pain of the world is always with us. We see it in the desperate faces of those who have no homes, in the vacant eyes of those gripped by addiction, in the cowering stances of those who have suffered violence and abuse. More pain: the death of someone dear, family troubles, the onset of serious illness. How do we respond to such ever-present need? In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us how: immediately, compassionately and humbly.
Most readings of this passage focus on the centurion’s humility. But he is not the only humble actor in the drama. To the intercession of this Roman military officer on behalf of his lowly servant, Christ responds instantly: “I will come and cure him.” And the Greek verb he uses for “cure,” therapeuo, is associated with menial service, with waiting upon (or worshipping) a superior. (Later in the passage, the centurion employs a different verb for healing, one that lacks these connotations of servitude.)
This is a strikingly humble statement from the Lord of the universe. Like the mighty angel who reassured John of Patmos in the Book of Revelation,“I am your fellow servant,” Jesus declares solidarity with those who suffer, and attends to them with great compassion. Through serving the servant, of course, he also honors God. For in the Christian life, as British mystic Evelyn Underhill observed, “We are all serving on one Staff,” and God is the master.
Christ does not hesitate to place himself in the service of those who need him, whoever they happen to be. And when today’s equivalent of centurions and servants present themselves to us, neither should we.
Prayer: Merciful Lord, grant that I might offer myself in service to others—immediately, compassionately and humbly. Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.
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