Friday, June 24, 2016

"LORD, I AM NOT WORTHY."


Homily for June 25th, 2016. Matt. 8:5-17.

          The centurion who asks Jesus to heal his serving boy is a Roman military officer, something like a colonel today. This is clear from his response when Jesus says he will come at once to heal the boy. The officer shows both courtesy to Jesus and respect for the Jewish law by saying: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof.” Luke’s version of this story tells us that this Roman officer has taken a genuine interest in Jewish religion, and has even built a synagogue. He knows, therefore, that in entering a Gentile house Jesus could become ritually unclean. Hence, Luke tells us, the officer suggests an alternative: “Just give an order and my boy will be healed.” I do that all the time, he says. I give orders to those under my authority, and they do what I command.

          Upon hearing these words, Matthew tells us, Jesus “showed amazement.” Normally it is the witnesses of Jesus’ healings who are amazed. Here it is the Lord himself who shows amazement. I have not found faith like this from my own people, Jesus says. This outsider, who has neither our divine law, nor our prophets, he tells the people, shows greater faith than you do.

The words which follow about people coming from east and west to take seats at God’s heavenly banquet alongside Israel’s heroes are a prophecy of the Church. Originally a sect within Judaism, the Church would break out of its Jewish womb to become the worldwide community that we know today.

          The centurion’s words continue to resound two millennia later. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” we say before we approach the Lord’s table to receive his Body and Blood, “but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” Even after a good confession, we are still unworthy of the Lord’s gift. He gives himself to us for one reason: not because we are good enough; but because he is so good that he longs to share his love with us.  

          How do we respond? By gratitude! By walking before the Lord in holiness and righteousness all our days, trusting that when the Lord calls us home to himself, we shall hear him saying to us, very personally and with tender love: “Well done. … Come and share your master’s joy.” (Matt. 25:21).