“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.”
I have always thought that today’s Gospel is one of the most subtly beautiful passages rendered for us in the New Testament. The remarkable display of faith from a Roman centurion, a man of power, is a stark reminder of our need for God. No matter how powerful we may feel, how untouchable we may imagine ourselves because of recent good fortune, the inescapable reality is that life will never fail to surprise us, upset our plans, or rapidly send us from a splendid afternoon to a trembling twilight. We cannot ever truly know what life holds for us. Our world has no constancy, no soil for us to root firmly into that is not subject to a storm washing it away from us. It is the very nature of life to be inconstant; to be ever-changing and unpredictable, and it is that very thing that leads us, in my opinion, to a belief in God.
Faith is the fall, the leap we take across an abyss our senses cannot ever really bridge as we try to truly make sense of our world. It is something mysterious, inspiring, and terrifying, and I cannot help but wonder if most of us only ever flirt with the precipices that life takes us to, while never truly taking that next step into the unknown. And there is nothing wrong with that. Christ died for us in the hopes that we would follow him across the gap, on a journey we cannot see, smell, taste, touch, hear, or even fully understand, to the Eternal Kingdom that he shed light upon for us during his time with us. Christ is the Way, he marked the path, and he invited us all to follow him. The centurion understood this, and he had faith because of it. As Dostoevsky alludes to in The Brothers Karamazov, Christ freed us to walk where we will and to question what we want, in the hopes that, someday, life would lead us home to the Father as men and women of faith.
There is also a beautifully simple message here as well. Paul requests prayers for the powerful in the first reading for today. In light of this it is important for us to pray for the leaders in today’s world; those who make decisions that can immediately impact thousands of people’s lives need Christ’s guidance and our support. However, I think that it is also important to realize that we hold a position of power, whether we realize it or not. We can all change the lives of the people around us, and that grants us a very special power to change our world. Thus, pray for each other, and let’s pray for ourselves too.
“It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.”- 1 Tm 2:8