…A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.
The Gospel according to St. Luke 7:1-10
This gospel passage is a powerful model of faith; it is so poignant that a rendition of the centurion’s request of Jesus is our prayer in the Communion Rite before the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the worship of the Mass. We pray together the Lord’s Prayer asking for God’s kingdom to come into us. We ask for the bread of life to satisfy what we lack in this life, and we ask for forgiveness and deliverance from evil. We declare that the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. We kneel before the feast of our salvation, Christ’s body and blood, perceived as bread and wine.
Just after our priest has consecrated the bread and wine, he holds the host up before us and proclaims, Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb. We respond in praying, Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the world and my soul shall be saved just before receiving the real presence of Christ in his body and blood, soul and divinity in the form of bread and wine. Friends, does that moment in the Mass gets to you as it does to me every time? I am a prideful sinner who needs this saving nourishment in the form of bread and wine to transform me. In truth, we all entrapped by the sin in our fallen world.
What can we observe in this narrative that will increase our faith as we pray the Mass? We see that the centurion had power and authority over the people because of his position in the Roman occupation of Israel. We observe his concern for his servant and, more importantly, the esteem he had for Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus had power and authority beyond human understanding! We aren’t sure exactly what the centurion expected other than immediate relief from his problem. But, his faith in Jesus made all the difference in the world for the centurion and his servant. What was in the centurion’s mind and heart that opened the door for the centurion’s servant’s healing from his suffering? It was the humble acknowledgment that he was helpless.
The acknowledgment that he was not worthy opened before him the way of salvation for his servant, but also, I believe, for himself! No one can encounter Jesus and walk away the same as they were before. The disposition of our soul toward Jesus determines our faith and trust in the eternal truth that his passion and sacrifice are our salvation, healing, and hope. This is why we kneel in prayer in the worship of the Mass and as well, in the moment-by-moment surges of the heart toward the reality of the Cross! St. James wrote, Humble yourselves, in the sight of the LORD, and that he will lift you up. The crucifix is the symbol of the central truth of our Faith–Christ suffered death, hell, and the grave for the sake of humanity, and now he intercedes before the Father for us. That should humble us!
I need reminding that the power and might in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection are the answer to my deepest longings. For this week, in particular, I have knelt before him, asking for relief for my children and grandchildren’s suffering as we walk together through the long valley in the shadow of death. My ability as a mother and grandmother to comfort is only through Christ’s saving grace at work in our suffering. And so, I humbly bow and say,
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Only say the word and my loved ones shall be comforted.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.