“Lord, I am not worth that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We say these words at Mass every day – and even at today’s communion service – when we behold the Lamb of God… when we behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. And when we recall that blessed are those who – like us – are called to the Supper of the Lamb.
In today’s Gospel, we hear these words spoken by the centurion. A centurion is a professional soldier in the army of Rome. An officer. He would command at least 80 men; likely, he commanded a cohort – 480 men. He might have even commanded more. He was a man with considerable temporal power. He gave orders and those orders were obeyed; to disobey could carry dire consequence.
And yet – despite that – here we see a commander who understands that there is a limit to what he can command. He has the wisdom and the humility to recognize that his power is limited – his power: the power of the world; the might of the Roman Empire – has its limit and it is nothing compared to the power of the Lord. He sees that he is not even worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof. It would not be a meager roof, but that’s not the point.
Despite his worldly power, it was his humility that brought him to faith in the Lord. Kindness caused him to seek the good of another – not an equal according to the order of worldly power. A servant. And faith caused him to realize that the power of Jesus was such that he didn’t have to come; he didn’t have to visit the house and see the servant. Jesus could simply command it, and it would be done.
This is the kindness and concern for others that we should show. This is the faith and humility to which we are called – we who come from the east and the west. No matter how powerful a person may become, no one can save himself. Jesus – our Lord – can heal us; can make us whole; he alone can bring us to the kingdom of eternal life. In the end, worldly power means nothing. Divine power – the power of the Lord – is the only true power. It is the only eternal power. The only saving power. And this is why we pray every day, “Lord, I am not worth that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”