On the Healing of the Centurion’s Servant.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Healing of the Centurion’s Servant.
When our Lord came down from the mount whereon He had delivered His well-known sermon, He went to Capharnaum. As soon as He entered that seaport town, the centurion in command of the Roman garrison met Him, and besought His mercy on behalf of his servant, who lay sick of the palsy. Keep this scene before your mind whilst you meditate on the following points:
1st. Consider the great affection of the centurion for his sick servant. He goes himself to obtain succor for him, he applies in person to the Physician, to the greatest of physicians, to the One possessed of thaumaturgic powers; and having found this Physician, he is persistent in his entreaties and prayers to obtain relief for the servant who is sick of the palsy. Many Christians might learn a lesson from this heathen, a lesson of charity for and sympathy with the sick, especially for those who are their own dependents and members of their household. They might learn of this rough soldier to follow the precept of Holy Scripture: “Be not wanting in comforting them that weep, and walk with them that mourn. Be not slow to visit the sick, for by these things thou shalt be confirmed in love.” (Ecclus. vii. 38, 39.) “Then shall the just,” as we read in St. Matthew’s gospel (ch. xxv. 39, 40), “answer, saying: Lord, when did we see Thee sick, and came to Thee? And the King answering shall say to them, Amen. I say to you as long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me.” What is your conduct, my soul, in this respect? St. Francis at one time made it a rule to admit no one into his Order who would not pledge himself to assist and nurse lepers; whereas you perhaps calling yourself a son, a daughter of our seraphic Father, have so little charity for the sick, concern yourself so little about them that even a pagan centurion puts you to shame. Be henceforth more zealous on their behalf, and make it your serious resolve to remember in your prayers, your voluntary mortifications, the less fortunate of your fellow creatures who, whilst you are in good health and can enjoy your life, toss about on a sick-bed, groaning with pain and misery.
2d. Consider how modest and moderate in his demands is this Roman centurion. “I am not worthy,” he says, “that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.” (St. Matt, viii. 8.) Coming before our Lord as a suppliant, he does not ask any extraordinary favor of Him; he does not require Him to put Himself to any great trouble on his account; he does not even desire that Jesus should go to his house; he will be quite content if only the Lord will say a word and heal his servant in the ordinary way, according to His wonted method of procedure. Here again, my soul, you may learn a useful lesson from this heathen soldier, to be unassuming and moderate in your requirements, as every Christian, and more especially Religious, ought to be. Illness is a cross which our Lord lays upon us and which we ought to bear with great patience. This however invalids and sick persons do not do, who are dainty and particular in regard to what is given them to eat and drink, the medicine prescribed for them, the care and attention paid them. Even St. Bernard, a saint remarkable for his extreme charity, declaims against the sick who are so exacting; he writes thus: “What is the meaning of this, that in river and meadow, in garden and storeroom nothing can be found to suit thy palate? Remember, I pray thee, that thou art a monk, not a physician; that thou wilt have to render an account not of the state of thy body, but of the manner in which thou hast discharged the duties of thy Order.” Reflect upon these words. Do not wilfully injure your health, but do not pamper your body, as do the children of this world.
3d. Consider what unbounded faith the centurion has in the divine Physician. “Only say the word,” thus he expresses himself, “and my servant shall be healed. 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.” (v. 9.) According to the exposition St. Augustine gives of this passage, the centurion’s meaning is this: If I, myself a man bound to obey the orders of my superior officers, am nevertheless in a position to require implicit obedience from my subordinates, how much more wilt Thou be able to effect, since to Thee, as it appears, all men and all things are in subjection. As I command soldiers, so Thou dost command maladies and they are cured; Thou dost command the dead and they rise again; Thou dost command the storms and they cease. How great this faith, how profound this confidence! Jesus Himself speaks of it with wonder and admiration. Consider, my soul, whether the rebuke our Lord added: “Amen, I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel” (v. 10), may not be applied to you. How despondent, how faint-hearted, how cast down you are in sickness, suffering and affliction! Ponder this well: The Christian, the Religious, who in sickness and tribulation submits with trustful confidence to the will of God and the orders of his Superior, who is to him in the place of God, gives general edification, like the centurion in the Gospel; whereas those only give scandal who after the manner of the children of the world manifest great anxiety and disquietude, and always seem to suspect that those around them are not sufficiently concerned about their restoration to health.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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