“A centurion came … to him … saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home …’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ … [T]he centurion answered him, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ … When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said … ‘Go; be it done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed at that very moment.”—Matthew 8:5-8, 10-13
I am amazed by the faith exhibited by “outsiders” and “outcasts” in the Gospels! And so is Jesus. Take the Syrophoenician woman who insists that “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (cf. Mk. 7:25; Mt. 15: 21ff); or the hemorrhaging woman who dares touch Jesus’ cloak to be healed despite her “uncleanness” (cf. Mt. 9:20). Recall the centurion at the foot of the cross who, “filled with awe”, makes a profession of faith – “Truly this was the Son of God!” – as Christ, in a loud cry, yields his spirit to His Father and breathes His last causing an earthquake that splits rocks, opens tombs, and tears the temple curtain from top to bottom (cf. Mt. 27: 50ff); or the centurion in Capernaum whose servant was paralyzed at home and required the intervention of someone with real power to save and restore: he highlights the rewards of “the obedience of faith”.
This centurion approached Jesus like so many of us in need of healing for ourselves or someone we love. But what makes his story unique is that, deeming himself “not worthy to have you come under my roof”, he asks Jesus to simply “say the word and my servant will be healed.” Amazing! “When Jesus heard this he marveled.” (cf. Mt. 8:10) This non-Jewish Roman official had faith in the Word of God which was capable of bringing the Universe into existence and even today can create, recreate, and bring to naught in a split second. This man had confidence because he understood authority: he knew what it means to give and receive orders, and what can be accomplished with real power: “I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my slave, ‘do this’ and he does it.” (Mt. 8:9)
In what ways might you be called to follow the centurion’s example of faith and trust this Year? Ask the Lord in prayer to show you areas in which you need to allow Christ to exercise his authority more fully in your life. Make an explicit profession of faith in His authority over every aspect of your life, even as we repeat the words of the centurion at every Mass we attend: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” If you have faith, be ready to have Christ act in some marvelous way!