Christ and the Centurion,
Peinture de Paolo Veronese (1528-1588),
Painted circa 1571,
Huile sur toile,
© Museo del Prado, Madrid
Je ne suis pas digne de t'avoir sous mon toit.
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.’ ‘I will come myself and cure him’ said Jesus. The centurion replied, ‘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 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.’ 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 I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.’
Réflexion sur la peinture
"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed’, are words we say each time during mass, directly taken from and inspired by the Centurion of today’s Gospel reading. The Centurion, a man of military status, was asking Jesus to heal his servant. He wasn’t approaching Jesus to get a favour for himself, no, he was interceding for someone else. This combined with him telling Jesus that he wasn’t worthy for him to come to his house, astonished Jesus. What a great display of humble, genuine, loving faith.
Having started at seminary, quite a number of you readers, friends and family often ask me to keep certain intentions in my prayers. Well, each day at mass when I say the ‘Lord, I am not worthy…’ I pray for those intentions. Just as the centurion interceded for his friend, it seems an apt time to then intercede for friends’ intentions too. Yes, I am uttering those words just before receiving communion and praying for my own ‘roof’, the dwelling place of my soul; yes, I prepare for the Divine encounter just about to take place in receiving the Body of Christ; but, it is also a good moment to steer my thoughts towards embracing the wider circle of friends and world around me, and involve them in the mystery of the eucharist.
Today’s painting by Paolo Veronese shows the Centurion’s humility on full display: on his knees, in front Jesus painted with a small halo. Jesus is already extending his arm to the centurion. The figures are all painted in bright colours, contrasting with a white, greyish classical architectural background. It is almost like a theatrical staging. This painting belonged to Count Arundel, but following his death in 1646, it was acquired by Filip IV (1605-1665) of Spain, who sent it to the Monastery of El Escorial.
It is very tempting to always pray for our own selves and for our families. But Our Good Lord wants us to go beyond that. He wants us to involve our neighbours, our fellow citizens, every nation… He wants us to intercede for all people… so everyone can get to know the saving nature of Jesus Christ… whose birth we are awaiting in this time of Advent…
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