When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man 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 and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
It’s been a while. It’s officially the season of Advent! Now is the season where we, as the body of Christ, prepare for the birth of Our Lord. Today’s gospel reading particularly resonates with me because it reminds me so well of how much I need the Lord in my life.
Let’s break down today’s gospel reading a bit. The Centurion’s words should resonate with all when he says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” These are the very same words we say at Mass before we receive communion. Yes, while it represents the Centurion’s admission that the Lord is in his house, this is the plea we recite at mass daily and the one one that represents our brokenness due to original sin. The brokenness we inherited from Adam and Eve. The one that the coming of Our Lord on Christmas day will solve. The one we are preparing for in this season of Advent.
As stated in the book of Genesis, where the fall originally takes place, God tells Adam that, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Because of Adam and Eve’s fall, we are imperfect. We will always long for true holiness and happiness, and long for the God-shaped hole. As Saint Augustine says, “.. Our hearts are restless until they rest in [God].” It is of no surprise to me that the theme for one of Frassati’s retreats many years ago was, “Rest for the Restless.” Evil exists in the world, and we are all broken. As Catholics, we inherently realize the need for repentance, but also the need to be as close to Jesus. If we rest in the Lord, however, The Lord will provide, even in unexpected ways. It is of no surprise that over the centuries, Christ has been called by the “New Adam.” (Even by St. Paul himself.)
But let’s go back to the centurion. What is the centurion saying? In comparing himself to his own servant as “a man under authority,” the centurion is suggesting two things. One, he realizes that in Jesus’ presence he is really no more than a servant himself. Secondly, his words also suggest that he recognizes in Jesus far more than just an ordinary man; rather, he indicates an awareness that Jesus is one to whom true authority belongs. The Roman centurion—a man of power and authority—subjects himself to Christ and has faith in Him. Earthly rewards and accomplishments are little compared to our faith in the Lord and what He can provide. The centurion recognizes his own brokenness, saying that he is not worthy of the Lord. But how does Jesus respond? He does not say that the centurion is broken or that he is not worthy; rather, Jesus commends him, even to the point of saying. …“in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
However, even though we are imperfect, that is not to say there is no hope! Because even though we say these words in mass daily, what else happens in the reading? Upon hearing the Centurion’s words, the Lord says, “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.” Not unlike many other moments in the gospel, an individual’s faith saves him (or the life of another) and Our Lord rewards them for their faith. It should also be that our faith in Our Lord strengthens us in a turbulent time in which the pandemic still exists.
It is of no surprise to some of you here that I had a very difficult year and a half. I had a lot going on. I needed my own time of healing. I was unemployed for more than a year and a half, and I battled my own trials and tribulations. And while it is in fact true that my life has had a blessed turn these past few months, I still submit myself to Christ’s authority. I won’t be ungrateful. And I never forget that without Christ, I would have never made it this far. When I made my final professions as a Lay Dominican back in August, the words said by the Centurion were of even stronger relevance to me. I too am “subject… to authority.” I am an instrument to bring people to the Lord. But we should always do it with joy! I am constantly reminded that when people are truly filled with the Lord, they are constantly joyful. Simply admitting you are unworthy of the Lord does not and should not make you a dour and dejected individual. I’m going to be a godfather to a newborn soon (and thus also be responsible for the faith formation of this child for the rest of his life) and I too wonder if I will be able to have the faith that the Centurion had. Because being a godfather is a massive responsibility.
We should not equate unworthiness with being unloved in the eyes of God. Unworthiness is simply recognizing that we are not perfect, and that we sin. And that we need our Lord! With Him all things truly are possible! And it is in this that I should give a fair warning. Because even though we are unworthy, everything is grace. Jesus fulfills God’s promise that He would send a redeemer to save us. Jesus is the Redeemer who makes us worthy and allows us to be saved. The least we can do is recognize God’s saving power. Jesus is the one who delivers us from our sins, our unworthiness, and bestows grace upon us. This season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of the Lord, let us remember that God became a man, “The New Adam,” to save us. The only question is, will we join Our Lord and continue to live a life of Holiness so that we too may feast on the banquet in Heaven one day?