We are well-acquainted with the healing story in today’s Gospel because we paraphrase the centurion’s words at every Eucharist: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Notice, however, that in Matthew’s story, the centurion requests healing not for himself but for another. By bringing the need of his servant to Jesus, the centurion makes it possible for him to receive healing. As followers of Jesus, are we not called to do the same?
A few lines beyond today’s passage it says Jesus healed many people to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: “He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Jesus heals, not as a mighty wonder worker, but as God’s suffering servant, who suffers with us and takes on our infirmities. Mirroring this compassion, the centurion takes on his servant’s infirmity and brings it to Jesus. As in other Gospel stories, the centurion is the outsider who exhibits true faith, a faith expressing a spiritual posture. A person of great authority, he acknowledges and entrusts himself to an authority greater than his own.
If we are going to welcome Jesus’ healing and accompany him in healing others, we must also defer to an authority greater than our own. We must become instruments of a love greater than our own. Jesus presents this outsider as an object lesson in spirituality—compassion and faith in the God of love whom Jesus makes present. Praying the centurion’s words, we step into this eucharistic spirituality.