This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19
2 The Lord pitilessly engulfed all the homes of Jacob; in his fury he tore down the fortresses of the daughter of Judah; he threw to the ground, he desecrated the kingdom and its princes.
10 Mute, they sit on the ground, the elders of the daughter of Zion; they have put dust on their heads and wrapped themselves in sackcloth. The young girls of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground.
11 My eyes are worn out with weeping, my inmost being is in ferment, my heart plummets at the destruction of my young people, as the children and babies grow faint in the streets of the city.
12 They keep saying to their mothers, ‘Where is some food?’ as they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, as they breathe their last on their mothers’ breasts.
13 To what can I compare or liken you, daughter of Jerusalem? Who can rescue and comfort you, young daughter of Zion? For huge as the sea is your ruin: who can heal you?
14 The visions your prophets had for you were deceptive whitewash; they did not lay bare your guilt so as to change your fortunes: the visions they told you were deceptive.
18 Cry then to the Lord, rampart of the daughter of Zion; let your tears flow like a torrent, day and night; allow yourself no respite, give your eyes no rest!
19 Up, cry out in the night-time as each watch begins! Pour your heart out like water in God’s presence! Raise your hands to him for the lives of your children!
The poet speaks for the people of Jerusalem left in a ruined and deserted city in the aftermath of war and the deportation of the ruling class of Judah. All normal provisions have broken down, people are starving. The picture is familiar from the war-torn cities of our own time. The poet can say nothing that brings comfort-indeed to speak of comfort to such stricken people would be impertinent. All he/she can do is to lament, to give grief words and to direct these words to God, the very God who has permitted this disaster, or even worse, has brought it about.
The scriptures understand this extremity of human sorrow. Premature comfort, even wise counsel, such as we sometimes offer to the afflicted, is an insult to them. We can only share their cry to God.
On the other hand, if we can relieve their needs, we must do so, as speedily as possible. But even as we do so, we must not imagine that we can heal their hurt.
Gospel, Matthew 8:5-17
5 When he went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him. 6 ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed and in great pain.’
7 Jesus said to him, ‘I will come myself and cure him.’
8 The centurion replied, ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. 9 For I am under authority myself and 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.’
10 When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘In truth I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found faith as great as this. 11 And I tell you that many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of Heaven; 12 but the children of the kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; let this be done for you, as your faith demands.’ And the servant was cured at that moment. 14 And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed and feverish. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He drove out the spirits with a command and cured all who were sick.
17 This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: He himself bore our sicknesses away and carried our diseases.
What is it that the Centurion understands? It is that Jesus is UNDER authority and therefore has AUTHORITY to command. Being under the authority of God, leads Jesus to carry people’s illness and sin, most obviously on the cross, but in fact, throughout his ministry. Matthew quotes from Isaiah 53 to make this point. He could have added, “by his wounds, we are healed.” This is a profound doctrine of Jesus’ healing power: it is not superhuman ability, but rather compassion, in which He shares our suffering and brokenness.
Although the centurion may not grasp all of this, he knows that Jesus bears the authority of God just as he bears the authority of Caesar.
We know that this is true of all true healers. They have opened themselves, through disciplined learning, to the creative spirit of healing, and to the need of the patient. Even when we do not put this into words, we sense the difference, for example between a nurse who cares and one who doesn’t.
If we want to be healing people we have to submit to the discipline and open ourselves honestly to the other’s need. Sometimes this will leave us, as it left the poet of Jerusalem, crying out with the sufferer.