I echo the words of this Gospel almost every day, as I wrestle and shush my kids on the kneeler, usually counting down the minutes until Mass is over, usually wondering how much longer we can last before someone cries or yells or bonks their head on the back of the wooden pew. I say these words often but rarely do I remember that they came from the mouth of a real person—a real, suffering, desperate person. Rarely do meditate on their impact. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof . . . .” (Matthew 8:8)
I don’t connect my words to the words of that man, and to his deep and abiding faith, but I must. In the book I Believe in Love, Fr Jean C.J. D’Elbee begins to crack the surface of this beautiful mystery. Isn’t it amazing to think of the reality of this man—who probably didn’t know Christ at all beyond the fact that He might heal his child—who cried out to Him in such humility, and such boldness, that not only did Christ respond to his plea and heal his child but He used him as an example of faith to everyone? Even more mysterious still, Christ knew the centurion’s cry would last forever in the Mass, destined to be burned into the souls of every Catholic until the end of time: “Lord, I am not worthy . . . but only say the words . . . .“
Could you imagine if the centurion would have known?
This reality is so simple and so totally profound. God is not drumming His fingers until we are spiritual giants; He isn’t waiting for us to become televangelists, or great theologians, or to even completely understand Him in order to enter into His Kingdom. He is simply asking us to trust Him totally. Deeply, whole-heartedly, and without reservation. He is telling us a great faith is bigger than all these things.
Can I be small enough to become like the centurion? Can I learn how to simply cry out—knowing with my whole heart that this man, the Christ, can heal? Can my faith become big despite the simplicity of my state in life; whether I’ve known Christ for years or have only just met Him? I pray I can be humble enough to have a faith so great: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof . . . but only say the words.”
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Next time you are at Mass, feel these words resonate deep into your heart. Embrace this reckless trust in the Lord.
Blythe Fike is the wife of Kirby and mother of 7 smallish kids. She loves the quiet life in small town SoCal. You can find out more about her here.