The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, "My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on - since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said." And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes." Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the tent." Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?" The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son." But Sarah denied, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. He said, "Oh yes, you did laugh."
My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.
He looks on his servant in her nothingness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name! (R./)
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.
He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty. (R./)
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
for Abraham and his sons for ever. (R./)
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, 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.
When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.
That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases."
Whenever Jesus encountered a sick person, his compassion came to the fore. The one needing help might be a foreigner, even an officer of the hated Roman occupation force, or a leper, a poor widow, a demented person roaming the countryside or someone he knew, like Peter's mother-in-law. Regardless of the person's nationality, gender, social level, mental or moral condition, what mattered was their obvious need, which touched his heart.
Jesus looked for trusting faith as the condition for a cure, an attitude that was absent among the people of his home town of Nazareth (Mark 6:5). Through his miracles he came to be known most of all as a man of compassion, reaching out to suffering people. As we read in Isaiah, he was "accustomed to infirmity" because the sick gravitated towards him. Many passages from Isaiah 53 read like a commentary on the public ministry of Jesus.
He stood within a long tradition where people devoted to God showed mercy to strangers and outsiders. We have seen how Abraham could not let the weary travellers pass by his tent without offering them kindness and hospitality: bathing their feet and then feeding them with a special meal. They in turn could not ignore the lonely sterility of Abraham and Sarah's marriage, and so they promised that within the next year the aged couple would have the child they longed form.
For most of the gospel story Jesus meets with and dialogues with people of his own Jewish race. Today's gospel is one of the relatively few places where Jesus is portrayed as entering into conversation with a pagan. This man was no ordinary pagan; he was a Roman centurion, man of authority, a commander in the occupying army. He came to Jesus as a man who was used to giving orders; he knew the power of his own word. Yet, he recognized that the word of this prophet from Nazareth had a power which even his word did not have. "Just give the word," he said to Jesus, "and my servant will be cured."
A version of that centurion's plea has made its way into our Eucharist, "only say the word and I shall be healed." How wonderful that the words of a Roman centurion should feature in the church's Eucharist. Yet, this Roman centurion was clearly a man of great faith in Jesus, as Jesus remarks in response, "nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this." The gospel suggests that faith is in unexpected places, unexpected people. It is not always where we expect it to be, and it can be where we least expect it. This pagan centurion calls out to us through the pages of the gospel to entrust ourselves to the healing and life-giving power of the Lord's word, as he did.