Centurion’s Faith

A reflection on readings from Genesis & Matthew from the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

I love the story of the Centurion and his servant.  I love the way that he identifies Christ as one who cares about the lowest people in society and also has great authority.  I love that in this scene Jesus is described as being amazed and then calls out his disciples on the fact that this Roman oppressor has greater faith than them — ouch!

That said, this might be the first time that I’ve seen the Centurion’s story placed alongside the story of Sarah laughing in denial of God’s promise of a child.  When these two passages are set side-by-side you get an interesting perspective on faith that I think is quite applicable for us as we approach the Eucharist.

For many of us, the Eucharist is a difficult teaching to accept.  It looks like bread and wine.  It smells like bread and wine.  It tastes like bread and wine.  In many ways we can be tempted to be Sarah in this moment and laugh at the prospect of believing that we are being presented with Jesus Christ.  So I find it telling that every Mass we repeat the words of someone in particular.  We don’t repeat an apostle, prophet, or church father.  Instead we repeat the words, or better yet, repeat the confession of faith of the Centurion.  This Centurion, a man of authority, looked at this itinerant rabbi from a region he helped control and a people incapable of throwing off Roman rule.  Somehow, despite the appearances, he saw a man with the authority to cure his servant with a mere word and even from a distance.  And this faith “amazed” Christ.

I’ve often wondered about this idea of “amazing” Christ.  How can I have the faith to amaze my Lord?  I think we access that faith at every Mass.  We look to the Eucharist and we might think, “He looks like bread and wine, He smells like bread and wine, and He’ll even taste like bread and wine.”  But, it is the Centurion’s faith that reminds us that Christ has all authority to approach us in whatever way wishes. Thus, seeing bread and wine, we confess that here is our Lord.  Because when we say the words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” we aren’t talking to some abstract and distant Jesus sitting on a cloud somewhere.  We are speaking to the Eucharist.  In this moment we can be Sarah, looking at all the externals and denying; or the Centurion, looking at all the externals and believing.

Originally posted on Ite Missa Est


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