The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Mt 27:54)
Unlike Jesus' friends and even the Pharisees, who were present at the crucifixion because of the vested interest they had in Jesus' death, the Centurion and the other guards were there because they had to be, not because they wanted to be. The scriptures tell us of how the Centurion, after witnessing the signs and wonders which occurred in nature after Jesus' death came to believe in him. The Centurion experienced conversion - a shift in his heart from cold, distant unbelief, to lively, certain faith that led him to boldly proclaim that Jesus was the "Son of God".
Father Cantalamessa, in his book Life in Christ, urges all of us to experience the Passion from the inside out, not merely as detached observers recounting a piece of history. He says:
"An earthquake must take place in the life of every man; he should feel in his heart something of what took place in nature as a warning, at the moment of the death of Jesus when the curtain of the temple was torn in two, the stones broke and the tombs opened. It is necessary once and for all that a holy fear of God should shatter our proud hearts, which are so sure of themselves in spite of everything." (62)Perhaps we identify with the centurion this Holy Week - attending Holy Week services as a casual observer, not allowing ourselves to enter into the truth about what we are witnessing, just watching the clock and waiting for it all to end so we can get back to our "normal" lives. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to allow us to experience the "earthquake" of deep conversion and the heartfelt understanding that Jesus is the Son of God who died to save each one of us from our sins.
Jesus, I had been keeping guard over you for hours; just doing my job, watching you suffer in agony as you endured the brutal death by crucifixion I've seen it all before and I really couldn't allow myself to get caught up in the emotions of those people at the foot of your cross. I was just waiting for time to pass so I could leave that place of death and suffering, when suddenly I felt the earth shake beneath my feet, as if revolting at your death. More than the outward signs, I felt a revolution in my heart and mind and I am filled with the certainty that you truly are the Son of God. In an instant I know that my life will never be the same. Help me, Jesus, to understand what I have experienced - help my to truly know you.
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