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.