Saturday, July 1, 2017

Will God marvel at us?

Matthew 8: 5-17

We quote part of this passage every day in Mass.  “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”  So, I think it’s important that we spend a little time dwelling in this passage.  Especially since the reaction of Jesus was, not only to heal the Centurions’ servant, but the scripture says that, Jesus was amazed (marveled in some translations).  Frankly, anything that would amaze or make God himself marvel in our direction deserves more than one little glance.  I don’t know and can’t speak for you, but me personally, I would love for God to marvel at me like this. 

Let’s look at the anatomy of this interaction to see if we can discover anything that can help us along our own path. 

Centurions.  What were they?  Centurions were the backbone of the Roman military.  They were professional soldiers that commanded between 80-200 men, depending on the time frame of the empire you are talking about.  They had to be at least 30 years old with a record of excellence in their career.  (Please keep in mind 30 is considered fairly old, especially in the Roman army where Legionaries often suffered great casualties in combat.)  They were protected under Roman law and paid richly for their devotion and service.  Obviously in the passage of Matthew, this man had at least one servant in his household.  They also had to be conspicuously brave to raise in rank, so we can extrapolate what kind of person approaches Jesus.  He is older by the standard of the day, possibly Jesus’ age, perhaps a little older.  He’s a war veteran of many campaigns.  Economically speaking, they were paid well, so he might be upper middle class or better.  Religiously speaking, here is where we get interesting…

Piety was an obligation of a Roman citizen, especially in the Roman military.  Sacrifice and religious festival was one of the way the Roman army fostered loyalty and single-mindedness to the state and duty.  So, we can assume that this man had over the course of his career celebrated Jupiter Optimus Maximus (God of the Roman state and protector of soldiers) more than once.  Whether he believed in that god or not, it was a state obligation and because of his rank he would have had to kept such things publicly.   

This is as accurate a picture as I can manage of the man who approached Jesus, and whose humble words we now speak at Mass.  Now that we see him just a little clearer, let’s try to see him as he approached Jesus.

He was hurting.  Not personally, but for someone under his care in his household.  His money, prestige, his household god, nothing could help him save his servant.  He understood this.  He stood before a man who was greater than any of the things I just mentioned and he understood that as well.  He had no foundation in real doctrines or knowledge (on an academic level) of God.  Yet, he had complete and total faith that, standing before Jesus, his servant would be healed-because Jesus had authority.  He also recognized profoundly that he was not worthy to have that man in his house.  This centurion was not leaning on his own understanding of the world and how the world should be based on his background and belief, but was taking a leap of blind faith in order to heal, not himself, but someone else who was suffering. 

Jesus marveled at that and pointed it out to the people who followed him.  Please keep in mind right now that the people who followed him were Jewish, and did have the academic knowledge of the one true God.  They had the traditions passed down from Abraham.  They knew better those things of God than any gentile of the time could.  Yet, none of them (at this point) had the faith that brought that Roman to Jesus. 

Let’s let that sink in for a moment. 

When we say that simple prayer in Mass, if we had faith like that centurion, we would be healed and God would marvel.   

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word an my soul shall be healed. 

Just some food for thought and prayer.

Here I am, Lord, send me.