The Roman military was one of the most successful and powerful in world history.
>> It dominated the Western world for over a thousand years.
• The Romans believed themselves to be descendants of Mars- literally, the sons of the war god.
• They were a proud and uncompromising people who, above all else, excelled at the art of warfare.
The core of Rome’s military strength lay in the professionalism of their heavy infantry.
The Gospel of the Day begins with a beautiful narrative of a healing encounter that an officer of this mighty Roman Empire had…
… with Jesus, the greatest Emperor of the Everlasting Empire of God!
The Gospel begins with the verse, “As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress” (Mt 8: 5-6)
A centurion was a professional officer of the mighty army of the Roman Empire.
Even though, theoretically, this word traces its roots to the Latin word ‘centum’ which means one hundred, a Centurion in the Roman Army was one who commanded 80 men.
When the Centurion made his request to Jesus, our Blessed Lord answered him, “I will come and cure him” (Mt 8: 7)
It is very remarkable to note what the Centurion answered in reply.
He says, “… For I too am a person UNDER authority” (Mt 8: 9)
Some other translations would read, “… For I too am a person SUBJECT TO authority”
Though he was a ‘Centurion’ – a person with 80 people under his ‘beck and call’, it is fascinating to see that he doesn’t say, “I am a person WITH authority” or “I am a person FULL OF authority”
>> Instead he says, “I too am UNDER authority”.
What was the authority that he was UNDER?
To know this, it would be good to see what was the position of the Centurion in the Roman Army.
>> Above the centurion was a senior centurion… (a total of 80 men for a Centurion)
>> Above this senior centurion, were sixty centurions… ( a total of 4800 men)
>> Above the sixty centurions were six tribunes… (each tribune had 3000 men.. so total 18, 000)
>> Above the six tribunes, were the two consuls.
>> Above the consuls, was the Emperor!
It was in this very long line of delegated authority that the Centurion of our Gospel passage stands.
The Centurions were also chosen from the best of the best.
A Roman soldier did not become a centurion overnight.
>> It took years!
The special ‘cohorts’ within each legion made up of veterans of sixteen years or more, were the normal source for men to be promoted as centurions.
The historian Polybius wrote:
“In choosing their centurions, the Romans look not so much for the daring or fire-eating type, but rather for men who are natural leaders and possess a stable and imperturbable temperament;
>> Not men who will open the battle and launch attacks, but those who will stand their ground even when worsted or hard-pressed, and will die in defense of their posts.”
It was such kind of a man who stood before Jesus, requesting for a healing for his servant.
We usually look at Jesus as a soft, gentle and affectionate person.
>> But this Centurion saw Jesus as the Commanding Emperor of a mighty army!
In Jesus, he saw a man of strength… a man of power… a man of immense authority!
And so He tells Jesus, “… only say a Word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8: 8b)
The Centurion looked at Jesus as the head and person-in-charge of the mighty army of God.
>> He believed that the Lord had immense power and strength
>> He trusted that the Lord vested tremendous authority and influence
It was not necessary for Jesus to come to his house.
>> Instead, all it needed was a “Word” from Him….
… a command as in a military set-up
… an order as in the armed forces
Jesus is marvelled at this tremendous faith of the centurion and lavishes His praise on him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt 8: 10b)
Is my faith comparable to the faith of this Centurion and can I be inspired by his marvelous belief?
>> Do I look on the Lord and have confidence in Him, as the One infested with all power and glory – able to overcome every crippling force of the world?
>> Do I consider and trust in the Lord as the Mighty Emperor with all supremacy and dominance – able to conquer every problem that I face and triumph over any sinful situation?
The Lord is the great healer.
>> He is the One who takes away our every infirmity and disease.
May we be inspired by the deep faith of the Centurion, and grow in our trust and belief in the Lord, knowing that…
… We need to be bold soldiers, because we have a Powerful and Authoritative Commander!
… We need to be courageous citizens, because we have a Mighty and Awesome Emperor!
God Bless! Live Jesus!