1 And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him: 2 And behold a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man: but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
"a leper came and adored him ..." The great irony begins: the unclean and the outcasts will recognize Our Lord's authority and adore Him; the religious officials will not
5 And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. 8 And the centurion, making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.
"Lord, I am not worthy ..." These words are taken and adapted in the Roman liturgy, beginning with the Latin words Domine non sum dignus ...
9 For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him. Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.
"I have not found so great faith in Israel ..." The irony continues. First, a leper acknowledges Our Lord; now, a Roman centurion, a Gentile, manifests a great faith.
11 And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven:
"many shall come from the east and the west ..." That is, Gentiles from all over the world. These will take their place along side the great Jewish saints of the Old Testament, thus forming the "new Israel." The allusion here is to Ps. 107:2-4 (106:2-4 DR):
"Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy: and gathered out of the countries. From the rising and from the setting of the sun, from the north and from the sea. They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water: they found not the way of a city for their habitation."
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
"the children of the kingdom ..." The natural, biological sons of Abraham. The imagery of "gnashing of teeth" is an Old Testament image associated with the wicked:
"The just shall be in everlasting remembrance: he shall not fear the evil hearing. His heart is ready to hope in the Lord: His heart is strengthened, he shall not be moved until he look over his enemies. He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory. The wicked shall see, and shall be angry, he shall gnash with his teeth and pine away: the desire of the wicked shall perish." (Ps. 112:7-10, 111:7-10 DR)
13 And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.
14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying, and sick of a fever; 15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she arose and ministered to them. 16 And when evening was come, they brought to him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word: and all that were sick he healed: 17 That it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet Isaias, saying: He took our infirmities, and bore our diseases.
"which was spoken by the prophet Isaias ... " A quote from Isaias 53:4 - "Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted."
18 And Jesus seeing great multitudes about him, gave orders to pass over the water. 19 And a certain scribe came and said to him: Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou shalt go. 20 And Jesus saith to him: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. 21 And another of his disciples said to him: Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 22 But Jesus said to him: Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.
23 And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him: 24 And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. 25 And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. 26 And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up, he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. 27 But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?
28 And when he was come on the other side of the water, into the country of the Gerasens, there met him two that were possessed with devils, coming out of the sepulchres, exceeding fierce, so that none could pass by that way. 29 And behold they cried out, saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
"What have we to do with thee, Jesus Son of God? ... " The ultimate irony: even the demons acknowledge that Jesus is the "Son of God." The phrase "what have we to do with thee" denotes a readiness of submission - it is used verbatim in John 2 when Our Lord says to Mary, "what have I to do with thee?"
30 And there was, not far from them, a herd of many swine feeding. 31 And the devils besought him, saying: If thou cast us out hence, send us into the herd of swine. 32 And he said to them: Go. But they going out went into the swine, and behold the whole herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea: and they perished in the waters. 33 And they that kept them fled: and coming into the city, told every thing, and concerning them that had been possessed by the devils. 34 And behold the whole city went out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart from their coast.
Questions for Discussion
1. How does Jesus heal the leper? What is significant about the method He uses?
2. Using a tool like www.blueletterbible.com, identify the two Hebrew words used in Is. 53:4 to describe "infirmities" and "sorrows." What is the dual meaning that can be understood from these words, and how does that shed light upon St. Matthew's use of the passage here in the Gospel?
3. What other references in Is. 53 make that chapter associated with this chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel?
4. After studying the source of the words used in the Mass, Domine non sum dignus, etc., how might we apply this knowledge on a personal level to deepen our appreciation of the prayer?
5. Why does Jesus tell the prospective disciple, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead?" Isn't burying the dead a corporal work of mercy? Why does Jesus seem to downplay this work?
6. Locate "Gerasens" on a map (sometimes spelled "Gadarenes" or "Gergesenes") - is there anything significant about the healing of the demoniacs, or the reaction of the townspeople, give this location?