In today’s first reading, from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul asks for prayers for everyone, including kings and those in authority, “that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” Paul’s point seems to be that Jesus came to save all the world, Jew and Gentile alike, and we have a role in that salvation by bringing Jesus to those who don’t know Him or are seeking Him.

Luke’s Gospel confirms that point with the story of the centurion who sought Jesus to provide healing for his slave. You’ve got to really think about what’s going on here. A centurion, of course, was a Roman soldier of some authority, having command of a group of 100 men. He was responsible for their training and discipline, leading and directing them on the battlefield. He usually was from the common people, not of noble birth, and he usually worked his way up to the rank of centurion. And thus, he was paid nicely for the position. 

Meanwhile, this particular Roman soldier of some authority happened to be in the occupied territory of Palestine, in control of the conquered Jewish people. While his soldiers respected and followed him, the Jews most likely despised him, but despite their contempt, they knew he could make their lives even more miserable, or end them entirely, if they did not do what he said.

And so, in that setting, the centurion finds his slave sick and dying. A man of his military stature could easily get another slave, but his attachment to this slave, his love for him, if you will, made the centurion seek someone else who appeared to be of some authority: Jesus of Nazareth. Word had reached him of this Galilean preacher who went about healing the sick, and he chose to contact him for his slave in need.

And so Luke gives us a teachable moment here: Look more closely at your enemies, at those you don’t agree with, at those who don’t like you, or those with authority over you. They, too, have a humanity given to them by God, just like you do. And that humanity is worth saving from sin, worth bringing the word of God to, worth converting and, yes, worth loving.

But there’s one more attribute of the centurion that Luke points out: his humility. The centurion trusted that Jesus could save his slave. Yet he sent others to speak to Jesus, and even had them tell Jesus, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.” 

We echo those words at every Mass, when we are presented the Body of Christ and invited to partake of His flesh and blood. We are not worthy, and we know it. The centurion was not worthy, and he knew it, yet he knew Jesus had the power to save. May we also have that confidence in our Savior, and may we bring that confidence in the Lord to others.

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Saint Jerome

Known mostly for his translation of the Scriptures into Latin, Saint Jerome was also an inspiring writer of letters and commentaries. He was said to have had a bad temper, yet he was a man of prayer and penance. A combination of conflicting qualities, Saint Jerome stands out as one of the four great Doctors of the Latin Church.