June- July 2015
On 28 June 2015, the Orthodox Church is on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost (of the healing of the Centurion’s servant). The evangelical pericope of Saint Evangelist Matthew 8:5-15 was read at the Divine Liturgy in all Orthodox Churches.
His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church delivered a sermon in the historical chapel of the Patriarchal Residence dedicated to Saint Great Martyr George, in which he said: “The healing of a sick man of a different nation than Jewish and of another religion but the Judaic has a symbolic missionary meaning, namely it predicts the fact that the Gospel of Christ will be preached all over the world, to all nations, because God loves all people. Jesus Christ, our Saviour, shows His disciples that He can find strong faith too at other people than Jewish.”
The centurion represents the various ethnic populations who will believe in Christ
“This centurion belonged to the Roman occupation troops of the Holy Land. The Roman centurion was polytheist by tradition, because the Romans worshipped several gods, but some of them admired the teaching and Person of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Having seen or heard of His wonders and wonderful teaching, many of the pagans believed in Him. Therefore, the centurion of the Gospel of the day represents the ethnic groups or peoples, different from the people of Israel, who would come to Christ, would believe in Him and would be saved”, His Beatitude said.
The value of the human person is greater than any rank or state of life
Then, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel explained that the merciful kindness of the Roman centurion to his servant, his solidarity with the man who was suffering shows us that: “Beyond different ranks, functions in society and states of life, it is the human dignity that matters first of all, the value of every human being to God, even when the human cannot be efficient any more, when he/she is no longer active or productive because of disease or of old age. Faced with the disease that was affecting his servant, the centurion cannot do anything, because he is not able to change the state of disease of his servant into good health. This is why he goes to Jesus, the Doctor of the souls and bodes, the Healer who makes wonders. Having seen the care of the centurion for his servant – N.B. it is not the care of a servant for his master, but the care of the master for his servant – Jesus Christ, our Lord, tells the centurion: “I will come and cure him” (Matthew 8:7). Having seen the kindness of the soul of his centurion, Lord Jesus answers with kindness too, especially since the centurion is not asking something for himself, but for a man who is neither a relative nor superior, but a simple subordinate. But when the centurion hears that Jesus was going to come to his house, he tells him right away: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.”, (Matthew 8:8), namely under the roof of the place where he was usually living. The centurion’s words show his lowliness, as well as his prudence because any Jew that was coming into the house of a pagan would support the criticism or Jews’ speaking ill of him, because they considered that the Romans, having had a different faith, did not disserve to be visited in their houses. One can see from the answer the centurion gives to Jesus that he does not think he deserves such a great honour, namely to have Jesus in his house. This is why he said: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof…”. But when he said that, with great lowliness, the centurion has already recognised Jesus as the Lord or master of Life, the Doctor who heals diseases and gives life to the people”.
The words of Christ raise the humans from disease and death, giving good health and life
The Gospel shows us that, besides the great virtue of the kindness of his soul, this centurion has one more virtue, namely lowliness, the Patriarch of Romania said, also showing that: “Although he commands over 100 soldiers and represents the ruling power of Rome over the Holy Land, the centurion is humiliated when he says: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed…” (Matthew 8:8), and then explains: “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:9). Starting from the mobilising power of the word, which moves the person, the centurion wants, in fact, to express his faith in the healing power of Jesus, about Whom he heard that He had healed lots of sick people. But, although the centurion speaks about the mobilising power of his word, of the commander over one hundred soldiers, yet he admits he has no healing power over the human body. The centurion’s words are mobilising only when his servant is in good health. This is why the centurion asks a healing word from Jesus. Thus, the centurion indirectly confessed that Jesus is not an ordinary man, but He has special power, different from the human mobilising word. Jesus Christ, our Lord, has healing and life giving word. The healing word of Jesus Christ is a saving one, namely it raises man from disease to good health, from the state of physical immobility to the state of mobility, it rises the human from sin to holiness and from death to life”.
The Patriarch of Romania has also emphasised the third great virtue of the centurion: “When Jesus Christ, the Saviour, learns that the pagan centurion admits that He is the healing God, He reveals to all those around the third great virtue of this centurion, namely his deep faith that Jesus Christ is the Lord or Master of life, that He is God. This is why Jesus, the Lord, fulfilled the centurion’s request, saying: “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would”.
Let us not pray only for us, but also for others
Today’s Gospel also shows us the importance of the prayer for other people, especially when they are so sick that they cannot move any more or express in words their hard overwhelming sufferance: “This is why the Church asks us to pray not only for us, but also for all the sick, for those in distress, for those who know how to pray and for those who do not know how to do it, for those who can pray and for those who cannot pray any more, for those who can come to the church and for those who cannot do it anymore, but lie in bed, either in their own house, or in hospital or old people’s home. Because the prayer for other people heals sufferance and loneliness, the Church calls us to attend all her prayers and celebrations for the sick, as well as to participate in the material and spiritual aiding of the sick”, His Beatitude Daniel said.
Do we heal or hurt through words?
To end with his speech, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel showed that the Gospel of the day urges us to use the word only to heal and spiritually help our fellow beings: “We must use word with all responsibility, because the word can hurt or spiritually heal. A bad word said to an innocent person can hurt his/her soul, while a good word said to a sad person can heal hidden wounds and change moods. There are lots of people spiritually hurt during their childhood, youth or at time of trial, so that their wound is very heard to heal, especially if the one who wounded somebody does not apologise, change the attitude or pray for him/her. Thus, the word can either hurt of heal. This is why we must think not only of the bed ridden sick, but also of those who suffer from sadness or are spiritually hurt. We must think how to use the words: do we hurt, or heal through words? Disdain or appreciate? Do we abase or raise our fellow beings through the words addressed to them? Do we improve or estrange those to whom we address hard words? Today’s Gospel calls us to use the word only to heal the sick, to raise the fallen one, to improve the one who made mistakes, to help and strengthen the weak, to cultivate the communion of the people with God and with one another.