Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!

There is nothing stronger than a faith that is sure and pure, and there is nothing firmer than trust in God and hope in Him. One who believes rightly has great boldness towards God, and one who approaches Him with such a boldness obtains everything that he asks, if it be for his benefit. The righteous live in faith; as the prophet says, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith in God is called the mother of virtues, their beginning and their fulfillment.

When we approach with faith, and ask God for just and useful things, we shall not do wrong by our petition. In this, let us learn from the centurion in today’s Gospel, who came to Christ with undoubting faith; not only did he not err in asking, but he even received praise from the Lord Himself, as we hear in the words of today’s Gospel:

“At that time: when Jesus had entered into Capharnaum, there came to Him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grieviously tormented.”

When Our Lord entered into Capernaum, there came to Him a centurion, beseeching Him on behalf of his faithful household servant, who was suffering the grievous torment of a serious sickness, and was already nearing the gates of death. He tells Christ of the sickness earnestly, with great humility and reverence, and fervently asks for healing.

The centurion did not say, Lord, come quickly, nor did he say, Heal my servant; he simply mentioned him, saying with great respect and faith, My servant lieth at home, stricken with palsy, grievously tormented. Thereupon Christ said to him, I will come and heal him. Here the Lord does something which He had never done before. He always manifested Himself in response to the desire of those who followed Him and entreated Him, but in this instance He anticipates such a desire, before it was asked; and not only does He promise to heal, but even to come to the house. This He does because He wishes to show the faith and virtue of the centurion. for if the Lord had not made such a promise, but had simply said, Go, thy servant will get well, we who learn from our Lord would not have learned of the centurion’s faith.

Thus, our Saviour promises to go and bless his house, and to heal his afflicted and suffering servant, on account of his entreaty and his faith. God in His omniscience knew that the centurion had opened his heart in compassion towards the servant, and, being the merciful Creator, He threw open the doors of His own loving-kindness. It was for this that our Lord came into this world, that in His compassion He might bear our infirmities and illnesses.

“And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.”

The centurion calls himself unworthy of the Lord’s visit; speak but the word, he says, and my servant shall be healed. The centurion did not say to Christ, Pray, or, Entreat, but simply, Command, Say; for he recognized the Lord as a Master, not one who must ask and receive, but One Who possesses and is able to give, One Who orders, not one who is ordered. Therefore, he says, One word from Thee is sufficient for me, O Lord. Let us also hear these words, O brethren who Wish to receive Christ; for it is possible to receive Him even now. Let us listen and be zealous, and let us receive Him with earnest efforts and faith. When we receive the Flesh and Blood of Christ, we receive Christ Himself; therefore, let those who receive him unworthily be afraid and tremble. Concerning those that receive Him unworthily, the divine Apostle says, For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

He that eateth and drinketh the Body and Blood of God unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself. If any among us is not yet purified, but is still a centurion, held by many evil things, a soldier of Caesar, the ruler of the world of those that crawl about the lower regions, let him say, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof at all; let such a one seek out Our Lord and His power, but decline His visit, out of a commendable fear that his house cannot accommodate the majesty of the Divinity.

“For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”

From his own experience and habits and position the centurion draws an analogy of how Christ is able to do things by a word alone. He had said to Him, Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed; now he says, For I am a man under the authority of a commanding officer, a servant of the emperor, of Caesar, and I have soldiers and servants under me; whatever I say to one of them, that he does unquestioningly. If I, a man under authority, the servant of senior officers, can accomplish something by a word alone, on account of the little share of power which I have from my superiors, how much more canst Thou, being God Almighty, all powerful and supreme? If thou tellest death to go away, it will certainly go away; if Thou orderest it to come, it will come; for it is not only a servant, but a slave, who is even more obedient than a servant.

“And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed Him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ marvelled, because, although the centurion was not an Israelite, nor did he know the jewish Scriptures which told of our Lord, the centurion came to faith so readily. And not only did Christ marvel, but He also proclaimed the faith of the centurion, that others too might imitate him. Thus, He says, I have not found so great faith, not even among the Israelites, who daily read the testimony written of Me.

“And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

Many others such as this centurion will come from the east and west and will believe in Me, says our Lord, and they will repose in the bosom of Abraham. By the east and west He includes every place on the inhabited earth. The bosom of Abraham He calls the bliss and repose of the just, the life and communion with them, which is called the kingdom of heaven. Besides the Israelites who believed after the coming of Christ, there have been many Gentiles who believed and who took their places with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the heavenly kingdom. In order to show that this is not inconsistent with the Old Dispensation, the Lord mentioned Abraham, inasmuch as believers from among the Gentiles also call Abraham their father; they are likened unto him by faith; wherefore, they will share his bliss and honour.

“But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The jews are called the children of the kingdom, since Israel was called the first-born, as the prophet says; and on account of the promise made to their fathers, and because Christ became one of them according to the flesh. But as for those who imagine themselves to be the children of the kingdom but do not in fact have faith, they will fall away from the heavenly kingdom, fall away from their lot with the patriarchs and the just. While the Lord spoke of the blessings in store for the faithful, He also said that unbelievers will encounter evil things in the future; on account of their unbelief they will be driven out and cast into the outer darkness.

“And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.”

Just as the leper was immediately cleansed of his leprosy, so also the servant of the centurion was healed at that very hour. Not only did Christ work great wonders, but in a small space of time He also showed His power and His love toward man. As the Divine Physician of souls and bodies, our Lord Jesus Christ wished to show in us His many mercies and graces, and to remove and cleanse the leprosy which lay on our souls from sin; with His sweet and all-powerful voice He said, I will; be thou clean; that He might deliver us from all wrath, affliction, and captivity, and give peace and comfort to those who suffer and are inundated by the assaults and artifices of the enemy, and avert from us His wrath and anger and the harm which we suffer.

It is solely the work of God’s love for man, His power and mercy, to rescue us from such evils, woes and dangers, and to heal our darkness, that we may run to Him, fall down before Him and weep.

Though we be crippled and lie in the depths of wretchedness, we shall be counted worthy to offer Him our prayers and supplications with great faith, like the centurion, with humility and contrition. And He, being compassionate, will surely extend His hand to help us. The Lord will come and heal us, and will raise us up from sin; He will teach us to walk in the way of His divine commandments, and will strengthen us to run along the sure paths of His incomprehensible kingdom, and will vouchsafe us eternal good things, since He is all-good and long-suffering. For to Him are due glory and dominion, to Christ our true God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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