In today’s Gospel reading, we see two intertwined virtues exemplified in the centurion: great humility and great faith. At this point in Jesus’ public ministry, people have caught wind of His miracles, His works, and His teachings and it was not abnormal for Jesus to be followed by crowds or stopped by strangers on the street. While this encounter with the centurion appears similar to others described in the Gospels, there is something striking about this exchange–Jesus was amazed.
When the centurion approaches to ask for healing, Jesus responds immediately to his request, saying that He will come to his home and heal him. The centurion’s response, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my servant shall be healed” expresses great humility and faith. The centurion recognizes that Jesus is not just a Jewish rabbi, but that He is the Son of God. This revelation of Jesus’ identity prompts him to respond with humility, to acknowledge his nothingness before Jesus is and His power to heal. This act of humility allows him to make a great act of faith before the Lord. With a heart humbled before Jesus, he is able to believe in the reality of the greatness of Jesus’ divine power – that his servant could be healed with one word from Jesus’ lips.
The centurion’s humility opens his heart to this gift of supernatural faith. It is this faith that amazes Jesus. It is clear from their exchange that this faith is not only real, but in Israel it is rare. It is this type of faith that Jesus wants to give us. He desires that we open our hearts in humility before Him, emptying ourselves of all of our self-reliance to receive the supernatural gift of faith that is total, radical, and completely dependent. Jesus desires that we respond to Him with the faith of the centurion – that we believe that Our Father will give all we need to those who ask. Unfortunately, this is a faith that Jesus does not often see, but He still looks for the one with faith to move mountains. Today, as we journey with anticipation toward the birth of our Lord, let us ask Jesus for a humble heart and for faith like the centurion’s. Let us desire to amaze the God of the universe with faith that is so real, so radical, and so rare.
We have the opportunity to say the words of the centurion each time we enter into the Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Let us pray those words today, with total confidence that even one breath from Jesus can heal even the most broken parts of our soul. May He say about us: “in no one in Israel have I found such faith”.
Rachel Herbeck is a Chapter Coordinator with i.d. 9:16, an outreach that exists to form young adults into intentional disciples of Jesus Christ in the context of the parish.