After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The Gospel today challenges us to consider our worthiness in the face of our savior. The centurion knows that Jesus has power over death. He wants Jesus to heal a dying slave. At the same time, he also knows that within power structures there are rules or systems that must be followed. The centurion, a Gentile, knows that if Jesus, a Jew, comes under his roof, he will be breaking an important rule of Jewish ritual purity.
This story is part of a larger section in Luke detailing how Jesus challenges the boundaries separating clean from unclean in order to restore people to life and community. Jesus pushes the envelope throughout the Gospels with non-Jews, women, prostitutes, tax collectors, and those possessed by evil spirits.
Likewise, Pope Francis has garnered attention by washing the feet of prisoners and a Muslim woman in particular, visiting the slums of Rio, and refusing to judge a hypothetical homosexual priest in a question posed by reporters. The pope even challenged a group of young people in Brazil by asking them why they were lunching with him when there were hungry people in their midst.
The centurion’s slave is healed because of the faith of his boss—the faith of another. We pray the response of the centurion each time we participate in the Eucharist and say, “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my should shall be healed.”
In the context of today’s reading, How do we challenge our own comfort zone or the comfort zones of others in order to meet people where there is great need? Do we risk upsetting the status quo in following Jesus? Would our faith be enough to heal another?
—Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.
Give us the strength and wisdom to meet people where they are—no matter where we must go—so we can help Jesus restore all peoples to life and community. Help our faith be enough to mediate your love and healing power.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team