SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 18:1-15; Lk 1:46-50,53-55; Mt 8:5-17 ]
In the first reading, we see the wonderful hospitality of Abraham in welcoming his guests. Abraham was a man of generosity and hospitality. We are told that he was very attentive and welcoming to his guests. When he saw the three visitors, “he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground. ‘My Lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by.’” He was just happy to receive guests into his house. His hospitality went beyond that of a normal host.
Instead of allowing his servants to attend to the guests, he personally served them. He became a servant to his guests. “As soon as he saw them he said, ‘A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree. Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further. That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’” Then “Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah. ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’ Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.” Indeed, Abram was attentive to the last point. He was a person of sincerity in wanting his guests to feel comfortable in his tent.
We also read of the wonderful love of the centurion for his suffering slave. “When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’” He was only a servant. In those days, servants were slaves and they did not mean much to the master. They were at their beck and call. Often they were expected to work all day and night. But they had no rights. So it was exceptional that the Centurion, hated by the Jews for being a Roman and an occupier of the land, should turn to the Lord to heal his servant. Such kindness of the Roman centurion who went out of the way to ask our Lord to heal his servant, and considering that he was a pagan, was certainly exceptional.
If human beings could be so wonderful, kind and generous, how much more God would be towards us? God surely cannot be outdone in generosity. When He sees us so generous and caring towards others, He will surely bless us abundantly. God’s response to our goodness is even more wonderful. This was precisely the question of the Lord. The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the same time next year I shall visit you again and Sarah will have a son.” How could the Lord not be more wonderful in love and care for each one of us, more than anyone of us could ever be?
Indeed, we must not be skeptical like Sarah who was not too convinced that God’s love and power could make the dream happen, after all they waited for almost 24 years and nothing happened. “Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, and Sarah had ceased to have monthly periods. So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!’” Precisely, this God is a God of surprises. When we least expect Him, He is there. So God, through the three men, promised that Sarah would conceive and have a child by next year. He gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age. What He did for Sarah and Abraham, He did for the servant of the Centurion who was in pain. He healed the servant from afar even though He wanted personally to go down to Capernaum to see the servant. “I will come myself and cure him.” Nothing was too difficult for Him to do.
However, to receive the miracles of the Lord, we must be humble and trusting in the Lord. We need to have faith for the miracle to happen. That was why Sarah was reprimanded for laughing. She was not convinced that such a promise could be fulfilled. She was half believing and half wondering whether it could be real. But the Centurion, in contrast, was a man of extraordinary faith. He did not need Jesus to go to his house to heal the servant. He was sensitive to the conventional customs that surrounded the Jews. So he told the Lord, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and I have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.” He was full of confidence that all that was needed was a word from the Lord for his servant to be well. The Lord was full of praise for Him. “When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.’ And the servant was cured at that moment.”
Such faith in God’s power requires an act of humility. Abraham and Sarah were humble servants to the three guests. They were always ready to give and serve others. This was in spite of the fact that they were rich. But they were not living a high and mighty life. Rather, they saw themselves as servants to their fellowmen. So, too, the Centurion! He humbled himself to ask for the healing of his slave. Although, he was an officer, he did not feel embarrassed to ask the Lord for help. He was not too proud to ask a favour from Him. The gateway to God and all miracles is humility. God only works on those who are humble of heart. The responsorial psalm says we must rely on the power of God. “He looks on his servant in her nothingness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed. The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy his name! His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him. He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty. He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons for ever.”
Indeed, today, the Lord wants to continue to heal us. But we must grow in faith in His love and mercy. Jesus is our healer. He comes to take away our pains and our sorrows. “And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and she began to wait on him. That evening they bought him many who were possessed by devils. He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.” He is ever ready to heal us provided we have the faith. Like those people during the time of Jesus who could not afford any medical help, they looked to the Lord to find healing. And we read that Jesus healed all those who came to Him in faith and love.
Indeed, there is a warning against pride and the lack of faith. We will be put out of the kingdom. Jesus said, “I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast on the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” Jesus came for the Jews but many did not open themselves up to them. They were missing out the love and mercy of God through Christ Jesus. Because of pride and selfishness, they were not receptive to His message and healing grace.
So let us never think that the Lord is not more wonderful than us. He is a God who wants to show us His love and power. But He would not force Himself on us. He leaves it free for us to respond to His love. In faith and trust, and in humility, let us turn to God, rely on His grace whilst doing all we can on our part. When we cooperate with His grace, just like Abraham and Sarah, and the Centurion, the Lord shows forth His power and manifests His love for us.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone.