The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (8:5-13)
God’s grace is something that we speak of but do we realize that this energy and healing presence of God is very near to us?
It often becomes our habitual way of thinking to assume that God is far away, a distant entity who cannot be concerned with our day to day lives. With such a theology it becomes easy to believe that we are basically all alone barring certain inexplicable miracles. Today’s gospel passage tells us something quite different and it is of utmost importance that we figure this out and that we also figure out how to feel God’s presence.
The Lord is entering into Capernaum and as He does this He is greeted by a Roman centurion, a very high ranking soldier. The centurion said to Jesus “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” That’s it! That is all that he said and this is how the Lord responded to him: “I will come and heal him.” We should wonder at the speed and the willingness of our Lord to go and heal a man who is not of the house of Israel, but an outsider. How often do we find ourselves going out of our way to immediately help those in need and to serve others? The Lord was ready to jump to the aid of a complete stranger (though we know that no one is a stranger to the Lord). Are we ready to at least jump to the aid of our brothers and sisters in the church or within our own family?
We are stunned at the quick response from the Lord but the next thing that the centurion says will show us why the Lord was so quick to try and help the man.
The centurion, having heard the Master’s reply says to Him “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Unbelievable! The Lord was not simply content with such a response, He was genuinely overjoyed and marvelled to hear such a response. He tells those who are standing nearby “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” What made the centurion different? What was it about him that invited and welcomed the grace of God? Humility. Genuine humility.
Think about it, this man was a Roman centurion, a high ranking member of the greatest army the world had ever known. He was in some ways, the definition of earthly power and might. Yet even this powerful man comes to the Lord without haughtiness or pride. He comes as one who genuinely seeks the help of Christ and he does this without any feeling that this healing is his right or is somehow owed to him. In fact, it is the opposite, he tells the Lord that he is not worthy to receive Him into his house. What a concept! The idea of unworthiness is completely alien to our culture isn’t it? People believe that they deserve everything under the sun. While it is alien to our culture, it is important that it becomes part of our very fiber as Christians. Because if the concept of unworthiness is alien to you, then you will be alien to God.
Why is this the case? Scripture tells us that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The Lord Himself teaches us to follow Him as He says “For I am meek and humble of heart.” The only way to attract God’s grace and to feel God’s presence is to feel a deep seated sense not of entitlement, but of unworthiness to be in the presence of God. One of the powerful dichotomies in the life of the saints is that as they grow in holiness and the grace of God, they will also grow in humility and it would reinforce their deep and profound sense of unworthiness to know and to experience the presence of God. After all, who are we to think that we are worthy of God’s grace? Who are we to think that we should be given the opportunity to experience His powerful visitation?
None of this is owed to us. None of this is required of God. And that my dear brothers and sisters is why it is called God’s grace. Because it is freely given. While there is nothing that we could do to earn it, there is a certain attitude and demeanor that attracts this grace of God and allows us to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and this doesn’t take long, it can happen very quickly, like a flash of lightning. This is what happened to the servant of the centurion. The Lord healed the servant based on the centurion’s faith and humility.
Are we praying for others with genuine faith and profound humility? Are we seeking the Lord’s face with humble prayers? Or are we coldly going through the motions and imagining that we are somehow worthy of feeling God’s presence, and worthy of seeing God’s miracles? Or even worse, are we simply in disbelief that God is very near to us and desires to dwell with us?
Do not be unbelieving, but believe as this centurion believed. His humility invited the grace of the Holy Spirit just as a bee is drawn to a lovely flower. He knew that he was unworthy of the Lord’s visitation. He didn’t make excuses for his sins and shortcomings. He didn’t put blame on others. He knew that he was very unworthy of having the Lord Jesus come to his home and his deep sense of meekness and humility attracted the grace of God and all of the gifts that come with His grace all the more!
We can approach Christ in the same way that the centurion approached Christ, and we do this through real prayer. Whether we are approaching God in prayer for ourselves or for others, let us follow this example and we will be shocked by the immediate willingness of the Lord to dwell with us and to come to our aid.
Glory be to God forever AMEN.