Listen to your breathing, focus on its ebb and flow
For this session simply listen to your breathing, focus on its ebb and flow. In and out, In and out, without changing the pace in any way, just entering into the silence and the miraculous, life-giving action of taking breath in and sending it out. Imagine our life giving God doing exactly that, and use that image to become still.
Then, when you have stilled yourself, at least for a while, turn to God, and say ‘Here I am; speak, Lord - your servant is listening’.
Imagine the scene unfolding in your mind
It may be good to know that this story comes in Matthew’s gospel just after the one we looked at last week, of the cleansing of the leper. In today’s session, we hear the account of Jesus healing the Centurion’s boy. Imagine the scene unfolding in your mind...
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.
Have you ever begged Jesus for anything?
- ‘…as he entered Capernaum’; we notice that this is not Nazareth, where he was at home, but the active fishing village at the top of the Sea of Galilee which Jesus made his headquarters for the duration of his mission in Galilee. This is where he exercises his mercy. Where is Capernaum for you?
- The person who approaches him is, to our astonishment, a centurion, non-Jew, and a professional member of the occupying army. Jesus' healing mercy is not restricted to ‘people like us’. Not only that, but this Gentile and enemy of the people is actually begging Jesus to do something for him, and therefore at some level we now know that all will be well. Have you ever begged Jesus for anything?
- Then we hear an account of his plight: it concerns not himself, but ‘my child’ (or, possibly, my ‘servant’, or my ‘slave’), and he says of him that ‘he has been flung, terribly tormented, a paralytic in the house’. What did you feel as you listened to the centurion?
- Now for Jesus’ response: immediately, and without reflecting that this man is ‘on the other side’, he says, ‘I’ll come and heal him’, with that quiet confidence that marks all Jesus’ utterances. What does Jesus’ response (‘I’ll come and heal him’) say to you?
Talking to the Lord
Can you remember experiencing the healing mercy of God in Jesus?
- Then this story of mercy goes to a different level, as the centurion humbly says, ‘I’m not fit for you to enter under my roof’. If Jesus were of the strictest observance, this would be quite correct; but this Gentile knows what he is dealing with: ‘just speak with a word, and my slave is going to be healed’. He knows that God can act in Jesus, and not just for Jews. Can you reflect on why the centurion tried to stop Jesus coming into his house?
- This story goes to yet a deeper level of faith, as Jesus comments, ‘Amen I’m telling you: from no one have I found faith of this dimension in Israel!' Does this depth of faith remind you of anyone in you life? Does this story challenge you to faith in Jesus’ healing mercy?
- And it gets better, with a vision of many non-Jews receiving the mercy, and a chilling presentiment of the opposite for Jesus’ religious opponents: ‘many will come from the Sunrise and the Sunset and lie down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven - but the children of the Kingdom will be expelled into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'. Do we sometimes feel that God’s healing mercy is restricted to only ‘the right sort of people’?
- The story reaches a remarkable conclusion: ‘Off you go - as you have had faith, let it happen to you’, and we hear the evangelist concluding the tale: ‘the child was healed at that hour'. Can you remember experiencing the healing mercy of God in Jesus? Talk to the Lord about this and let this carry you through this week of our Lenten journey.