Saturday, 12th Week in Ordinary Time
Among the best-known verses of the New Testament, the words of the centurion rank high on the list: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…”
The centurion in today’s gospel was an officer of the imperial army. I find this profoundly ironic: He was begging a favor from a penniless itinerant teacher and declaring himself unworthy even to entertain Jesus in his house. Jesus was amazed, not merely at the trust of the man, but at the fact that his love for his servant led him to cut through all the barriers of rank and race.
The gospel gives us this striking image of a man who has power but humbly recognizes his own powerlessness – that he needs the help of Jesus. A man in command of an army capable of entering any territory but unabashedly considers himself unworthy to have Jesus enter his roof. A man of high status but very much aware of and concerned about the situation of his lowly suffering servant. A man who cuts through social conventions and barriers to help someone in need.
I believe this describes for us the kind of person we should strive to become, if we really want to have Jesus in our life. It also shows us the kind of humility and boldness that we need as we approach the Lord, recognize our powerlessness, and ask for help. It also calls us to allow ourselves to be moved with compassion, to feel the pain of others, and to do something about it.
Let us not allow our power (whatever it may be) to make us feel too self-sufficient and self-reliant – that will prevent us from recognizing our helplessness and powerlessness before the Lord. Let not our status or position (no matter how high) prevent us from reaching out and from seeing the situation of those around us, especially those who are suffering. Let not our titles and privileges (no matter how many) prevent us from becoming genuinely concerned to do something for those who are afflicted in one way or another.
May we have that kind of spirit that impelled the centurion to cut through social conventions and barriers. May we have that same love that moved him to seek healing for his servant. May we learn to listen to our heart and to reach out to those we can help.