It is no small feat to impress Our Lord, but in today’s Gospel the Centurion, a Roman officer and not a Jew, manages to do it. The Centurion was making an incredible act of faith against all odds. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, members of the chosen people, had been prepared, spoon fed, for centuries to achieve the level of faith that the Centurion is showing in today’s Gospel, and, as Scripture often reminds us, they often lacked faith in the Lord. The Centurion in approaching Jesus even knows that by Mosaic law he is not worthy to have a Jew enter his house, since for a Jew it would mean ritual defilement. He’s not entitled to be a Jew, and so he shouldn’t, in the mentality of the time, be entitled to any benefits of the chosen people. Yet even as a “fan” of the Jews and their religion something moves him in his heart to approach this rabbi who is more than a rabbi and ask that someone dear to him be healed. This episode in Jesus’ earthly life was a prelude to to moment when the Gospel begins to be proclaimed beyond the confines of Judaism.
The Centurion also shows us that when we ask Our Lord for something in prayer we need to acknowledge that he is under no obligation to grant it, but with the confidence that he will. If the Centurion did not have this simplicity and confidence he would have asked Our Lord if he could heal his servant, have him come to his house, pepper him with repeated pleas along the way, and perhaps pace around nervously as Jesus attended to his friend. In another moment Jesus teaches us that Our Father knows what we need before we ask (see Matthew 6:8). It is also the faith of the Centurion that gives him the simplicity and confidence to know that Our Lord doesn’t have to do a lot of things to perform the miracle. Faith helps us to not wring our hands in anxious prayer, but to simply ask for what we need, with humility, and to be grateful for whatever we receive from Our Lord.
Let’s ask Our Lord today to grow in a faith that trusts in him and knows that we only have to ask him for what we need and our prayer will be heard.
Readings: Genesis 18:1–15; Luke 1:46–50, 53–55; 8:5–17.