In today’s Gospel we have the story of a remarkable faith, a faith so powerful that it could move Christ to perform a miracle of healing.
So often we ask, why is my faith so dry, why don’t I feel the presence of Christ, why is it so difficult for me to pray? The answer to these questions that we all ask is contained in today’s Gospel.
Today we are being told what is clearly the very foundation of the spiritual life, the very foundation of our relationship with Christ.
The centurion, who is not a Jew but a pagan, comes to Our Saviour and says, “Lord, my servant is lying at home sick with paralysis, in much torment.”
And Jesus said, “I will come and heal him”.
But the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou should come under my roof: but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.”
The Fathers tell that we should understand the word “roof” to mean heart. Lord I am not worthy that you should come into my heart, but only say the word and I will be healed.
We all want Christ to come to us, to show His power and might to us, we want to see a clear vision of who He is, we want the sureness of his presence … the proof of his glory.
We want Him to enter with all His splendor into our hearts, into our homes, into our lives. We want Him to come and give us a taste of His presence, we want His peace, his glory!
Yet we lack the humility for this.
We want him to come under our roof, but we don’t want to do what is necessary for this to happen!
We don’t want to put forth the effort!
In our pride and blindness, we imagine that we are worthy.
We simply can’t imagine why He doesn’t come and dwell in our hearts. What is wrong we ask. Why am I so dry, why am I so empty?
We carelessly and lazily put forth feeble efforts to say our prayer rule, to be attentive at church amidst the distractions that we willingly allow when we are in His very presence!
Both the scriptures and the holy fathers all warn us to keep a watch over our mind and a guard over our lips, yet we treat these admonitions as if they were meant for someone else.
So often we want Christ to come under our roof, we are grieved and disappointed that He doesn’t visit us, that we don’t experience Him personally.
In the midst of our sins, in the midst of our pride, we don’t understand why Christ doesn’t come to dwell with us like He did with the saints. Why don’t we experience Christ the way the saints did? Why don’t we feel the presence of Christ and the sweetness of prayer like our fathers in monasticism did?
As we lazily make feeble attempts at prayer and the spiritual life, we wonder why Christ doesn’t come to us. In the midst of our preoccupations with our jobs and amusements, we have the audacity to wonder why our spiritual life is so dry.
Our priorities are clear to God, but not to ourselves. And what are our priorities, how do we know what our priorities really are? What do I think about the most? What do I put the most energy into?
We are proud that we are Orthodox Christians,
we are proud that we are monks
or proud to be good Christian married folks,
we are proud of our ideas and our accomplishments
….and there is no room for humility in us.
But the pagan centurion’s humility puts us to shame. He says simply, Lord I am not worthy that you should come to me, please don’t trouble yourself with me, but if you just say the word, I know that I will be healed.
His humility shines like a beacon of light on a dark night. His humility attracts Christ to do what he is asking.
Then the centurion continues, “for I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, go and he goeth and to another come and he cometh and to my servant do this and he doeth it.”
When Jesus heard this, He marveled, I think this is the only time that the scriptures say that Christ marveled at anything!
And then He said to those around Him, “I have not found so great a faith, no not in all of Israel”!
Christ marveled, He was delighted, this is what He had been waiting for the Jews to discover, this is what He had been preaching all over Palestine. This what the Gospel is all about. Christ says, be humble and obedient as I am.
St. Paul says that Christ humbled Himself and became a man and became obedient even unto death, death on a cross.
My dear brothers and sisters, what Our Saviour found in this Centurion was humility and obedience.
This is the foundation of the spiritual life, this is what draws Christ to us and us to Him.
+ Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Let us come to ourselves like the prodigal; let us, like him, speak firm words of resolve to our own souls: “I will arise and go to my Father”; and the Gracious God will perfect our small intention.
He knows that we do not know the way to Him, or the manner in which to traverse it; but, hearing us say: “Ready is my heart, O God, ready is my heart”, and seeing us begin our journey towards Him, He will then rush out to us, falling on us, and kissing our neck: He will send His All-Accomplishing Holy Spirit upon us, and guide us into all truth, not only in our understanding, but in all our deeds, all our life.
Yesterday, Christ was born; today, He is baptized. Yesterday, God immersed Himself in our flesh; today, our flesh is immersed in the Most Holy Trinity. Yesterday, the Timeless Son of the Virgin-Father was begotten in time of the Virgin-Mother; today He gives birth to us as sons of God forever.