The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (8:5-13)
In today’s gospel reading we hear the familiar story of the Roman soldier (a centurion) who found the Lord Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant. We are told that the servant was sick and that this sickness seems to have caused a paralysis. We should immediately be comforted by the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ to this centurion. “I will come and heal him.”
Is there anything more comforting than to know that Our Lord is ready, willing and able to help us in our times of need? It comforts us greatly to know that He is willing to offer us His life, and His healing. He actually can’t stand to see us unhealthy, especially in our soul. He can’t stand to see us in pain, especially pain of the soul. He desires to see us become whole.
The centurion is an impressive man. He actually impressed Our Lord greatly! How did he do that? He showed tremendous faith in Christ although he was a Roman soldier and not a Jew. He showed so much faith that when the Lord told him that He would come and visit his house, the centurion said in effect, “you are so powerful that your word is enough to heal him from this distance.” It is really quite astonishing. This points to the fact that the truth is all around us and many people perceive and apprehend it even without fully understanding it. Yet often, those who should perceive and understand the truth, especially the truth about Christ, are the least faithful and most likely to ignore it. This is why Our Lord said “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
We hope that we would not be like the people of Israel at that time regarding our own faith. But don’t be surprised if you see that history does indeed repeat itself. Whether we start with this faith or receive this faith in Christ later in our lives, we are always charged with cultivating and keeping this faith of ours. You can grow up as an Orthodox Christian, be raised in the Church, know her teachings and yet sadly, somehow find yourself far away from faith in Christ. This is why the Lord says in today’s passage “the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.” And likewise, there are those who grew up without all of the blessings of being born and raised as an Orthodox Christian and who nevertheless grow to love and honor Jesus Christ, His teachings and the teachings of His Church. Glory to God.
Whether you are born or raised in the Church or you hear about Christ later in life doesn’t matter so much as what you do with this knowledge. Do we grab hold of it and accept it like oxygen, like water? Or do we push it away? The centurion accepted Christ’s power and he made bold requests. You and I as children of the living God can make requests that are even more bold on behalf of others and for ourselves. What are some of these bold requests?
Lord Jesus, heal my hardness of heart. Lord Jesus, forgive my sins. Lord Jesus, help me to become a man or woman of prayer. Lord Jesus, help me to hear your voice in my life. Lord Jesus, bless my neighbors. Lord Jesus, bless my children and make them saints. Lord Jesus, bless my husband or wife. Lord Jesus, save me from the pits of despair. Lord Jesus, remove my anxieties and sadness. Lord, strengthen me for all the difficulties of life. My Lord Jesus, allow me to grow in virtues. My Lord Jesus, make me holy. And of course, Lord Jesus heal my bodily sickness if it is for my salvation.
Although we are not worthy of receiving the Lord, He is ready willing and able to help us, and just as He was willing to go to the centurion and enter into his house. He is also willing to enter into the temple of our souls and bodies. How does He do this? One way is through our reception of the Eucharist.
The holy gifts, the body and blood of Christ are so important that one of the stories that is most highlighted about our saint of the day, Joseph of Damascus is about holy communion. On July 9, 1860 a massacre of Christians began in the city of Damascus, and St. Joseph, just a day or so before his own courageous martyrdom focused completely on his ministry. He travelled under cover of night, jumping from rooftop to rooftop of different dwellings visiting the sick and the infirm to give them time to confess and to receive the holy gifts. He wanted them to be strengthened in their faith. He wanted them to be in full communion with Christ, to have Christ dwelling within them. He wanted to prepare them for paradise. Within a short period of time, just two or three days, nearly 3000 of the faithful lost their lives in that persecution. Among those who escaped the city were Michael Hawaweeny and his young wife Mariam, who was pregnant with St. Raphael our beloved patron.
Let us treat the things of God with this kind of faith and reverence. If we have this kind of faith and love towards Christ we will surely hear the words of our Lord “Go, be it done for you as you have believed” because He is the lover of mankind. Glory be to God forever AMEN.