Home » Uncategorized » Just Say the Word

Just Say the Word

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”  Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”  The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes… (Matthew 8:5-8)

There are many things about this section of scripture that make me squeamish.  In principle, I dislike charges of absolute authority, even as they are ascribed to the human incarnation of an omnipotent God.  I am especially uncomfortable with authority analogies related to the military, or any other institutions that employ violence as a means of enforcement, for that matter.  There is something about the centurion’s claim of unworthiness that gets me, too.  Perhaps I’ve seen too many well-intentioned Christians transform “humility” into unproductive guilt.

Despite all this, I cling to that declaration: But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

This man knew the power of a word.

Jesus responded to the centurion, saying, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would!” I’d like to believe that “Go” was the word with all that power.  I want to believe that because it is often the smallest words that heal me.  Last semester I took a seminar that required students to circulate written reflections on the assigned readings before class. While reading the first reflection paper of the semester, written by male student, I was touched by the care with which he employed one little word. “When one does this, she experiences that…” Every non-specific pronoun he utilized in the essay was gendered female—a stark contrast to the ubiquitous male-gendered pronouns that filled the theological texts we studied all semester. With that little word—“she”—this colleague extended a powerful message: language so often excludes people of your gender, and I am invested in changing that.  This gesture brought a little bit of healing.

Big words and long phrases have power, too.  I keep a stack of blank note cards next to my bed; you will find me frantically reaching for them while reading Nouwen, Teresa of Avila, and Foucault when I have come across a line or a paragraph too precious to forget.  I scribble them down and pin them to the bulletin board hanging on my bedroom wall where they remind me that so many others out there share the truths that I have unearthed in this short life. These are healing words because they remind me that I am not alone in my search for sense and meaning in my strange encounter with this world.

When I think of being “Christlike,” I dream of bringing words that heal.  This is how I make sense of a life of so many books and computer screens. I am searching for the Word.  The Word that heals.

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. Theresa says:

    Jess….I love this and can imagine you posting new cards to the bulletin board :).. what a great idea…and Jesus..words that heal…thanks.

  2. Jen says:

    You have already spoken many words that heal. Thank you for continuing to search and find even more healing words. This world sure needs them!

  3. Coincidentally, I read the same passage yesterday but in Luke. One thing that I think about is this. Israel was under military occupation, one as bad or worse than our presence Iraq or Afghanistan. Imagine the attitudes of most Jews towards the Roman soldiers. Imagine the spectrum of attitudes of the Roman soldiers towards the Jews. And then look at the attitudes and actions of Jesus and the Centurion towards each other. Something to marvel at.

  4. Maggi says:

    Jess, I love that you have reclaimed the healing power of words- big and small. It really does make so much sense out of our literary obsessions, doesn’t it? thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: