4th Sunday After Pentecost
In the Gospel reading for today we heard the words of the righteous centurion who humbly declared, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. But only speak a word and my servant will be healed.’ The centurion’s servant was lying at home paralyzed and dreadfully tormented. He sought the help of Jesus to heal his servant. When Christ indicated that He would come to the centurion’s home and heal his servant, the centurion, in his humility and in his complete faith in the authority of Christ, made his declaration, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. But only speak a word and my servant will be healed.’
The Gospels tell us that when Jesus heard this response, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly I say unto you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’
We hear an echo of the centurion’s words spoken by St John Chrysostom in our prayers before communion: ‘O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy nor sufficient that Thou shouldest come under the roof of the house of my soul, for all is desolate and fallen, and Thou has not with me a place fit to lay Thy head. But as from the highest heaven Thou didst humble Thyself for our sake, so now conform Thyself to my humility.’
This combination of the humble recognition of our unworthiness along with an unconquerable confidence of faith in Christ, this is the combination that pleases our Lord and God.
Both of these ingredients – humility and hope - are necessary if we are to have a balanced and healthy spiritual life.
Humility and awareness of our unworthiness of God’s love are important and appropriate responses in looking honestly at our relationship with God. God blesses us in so many ways and we are so often ungrateful and even unaware of His grace and constant care for us. And as we look at how consistently we fall short of what God calls us to be, this is cause for us to weep indeed.
And yet… if we focus on our unworthiness and our sinfulness without retaining that active and conscious hope in Christ - this leads us to a morbid and selfish preoccupation with our faults. We walk about with downcast faces, living lives of great frustration, somehow mistakenly holding greater faith in our worthlessness than in the conquering power of God’s forgiveness and grace.
This is a sin which leads us along the road of despair… and it is a trap of the evil one.
Yes, it is true, it is painfully true, that we are unworthy. Yes, it is true that we constantly fall short of what God calls us to do and to be. Yes, these realities are frustrating and the just cause for sorrow and self-reproach.
But, my brothers and sisters in Christ… we must NEVER so preoccupy ourselves with ourselves that we lose sight of the One Who redeems us!
This is critically important… Christ responded with awe and approval to the faith of the centurion because he demonstrated these two aspects of faith. In humility, the centurion recognized his unworthiness, and yet, in his hope and complete faith in Christ above and beyond his own shortcomings, he expressed his trust and confidence in the Lord.
And there is another layer of humility demonstrated here… Not only does the centurion acknowledge his unworthiness, but he also acknowledges his powerlessness. He swallows his pride and dares to reach out to Christ, Who has the power to heal. Perhaps we feel the weight of our unworthiness and perhaps we harbor great hope in Christ… but we must go further and dare to have the humility to seek out and then accept Christ’s generosity of grace,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… let us strive for this balanced view of our unworthiness on the one hand and the graciousness and effectiveness of God on the other. Our sins are indeed a cause for sorrow, but we must never give over to despair. We must never accept the lie that would tell us that the darkness of the shadow of our sins is more powerful than the radiance of the Light of Christ.
Where there is Light, the darkness is overthrown and cannot abide. We need to cling to the Light of Christ and have that confidence of faith and courage of humility as did the centurion. And in this faith we may then rejoice and reflect that radiance of the joy of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul sums it up: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’