This story is inspired by Matthew 8:5–13, the healing of the centurion’s servant.
The sickness? I never saw it coming. All of a sudden: slam. My body felt as if it had been hurled against a solid wall. Within a day, I could barely move. Without reason or cause. It just was.
It was difficult for me because not only does the master of the house rely on me to run things smoothly, but also because I derive a sense of self-worth from working.
Laying there paralyzed gave me plenty of time to think over my life. Have I become prideful? Am I of value even if I cannot work, cannot contribute?
Many consider service a terrible burden. Some consider it slavery. Not me. I’m content in an established household. I have a comfortable place to sleep, food for each meal, and work that is valued.
My parents died when I was young, and the Romans plucked me out of destitution to become a household servant. Menial tasks well-done led to larger responsibilities. Over time, I earned my employer’s trust. He commands legions. I take vicarious pleasure in his success. I’m happy to do his bidding, and every morning I manage his daily routine. After a couple of dozen years I know his habits and preferences. I make his life easier, and I’m happy to serve.
What other servant could say that his employer went out of his way just for him?
The day I was paralyzed, I saw concern cross the centurion’s face, but I could say or do nothing to reassure him. I was helpless. He assigned a fellow servant to care for me.
I remember my employer saying, “I’m going to get help. I have an idea.”
He left the house in a hurry. I closed my eyes. Was he going to seek Jesus? Just the week before, I was telling the centurion about the itinerant preacher who was healing everyone. I saw peace in Jesus’ face. I repeated to the centurion some of the things that Jesus said, and he listened without judgment.
And now I was waiting, motionless and helpless. I wondered what would become of me. How could I endure being served? It was my role to help others.
I longed for Jesus to heal me the way I had seen him heal others.
If I ever recover. . .and fear tightened its grip around my gut. I fought against it. I focused on the memory of Jesus preaching. I imagined following him.
That’s when I had a vision. A young woman entered my room and poured ointment on my forehead. It could’ve been a dream, a hallucination, or…was I visited by some heavenly being? I suddenly felt washed from head to foot.
Whatever occurred, I found myself suddenly awake and sitting up.
My fellow servant jumped from his chair beside me. As he ran out of the room calling to others, I swung my feet over the side of the pallet. I breathed a deep breath, and a shiver went through my body. I was well. And somewhere, deep within, I knew that this healing was the work of Jesus. Where does faith originate?
When the centurion burst into the room, he hugged me. He told me his story. I knew that he stood in the gap for me. Could I show a similar faith?
Gratitude filled me—gratitude for good health previously taken for granted.
Image: Paolo Veronese, “Jesus and the Centurion,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
What a beautiful reflection! This is an example of Ignatian imagination at its best. Thank yoU!