The centurion who approaches Jesus in the gospel of Matthew was used to exerting the might of Rome over all the local Jewish population. A man in his position could take away property and even force the locals into labor. As an officer of the Roman military, he gave orders and not requests. So, if you take into consideration the power of this man over the local Jewish population, it does seem a little strange that when he goes to Jesus for help that he doesn’t just order him to go to his home and command Jesus to heal his servant.
However, this is not what the centurion did, in fact he shows quite unusual respect for Jewish religion and religious boundaries. He knows and understands that according to Jewish law, entering the home of a Gentile would bring about ritual uncleanness. So with a spirit of vulnerability and with humble faith, this centurion approaches Jesus and appeals to Him for His help from afar. “Only say the word and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)
How inspirational is that?! No matter where we think that we might stand when it comes to our relation to God, we can approach Him. Even when we do consider ourselves unworthy, we can go to Jesus and ask Him to look on us with His loving kindness and mercy. The centurion’s encounter with Christ shows us just how graciously God receives people who approach Him with humble hearts. Far from responding with anger or impatience with this centurion, He praises this pagan’s faith. He even goes so far as to elevate the centurion’s faith above that of many of His fellow Jews!
So, the next time that you approach God in prayer, try to adopt the same kind of humble attitude as the centurion, however, don’t let your humility keep you away. You may not truly understand everything; you may not be in the best position spiritually, but that doesn’t matter, you can still go to Jesus. Jesus is there to help you and to respond with only love. Even though He is the almighty God, He will meet you at your level, wherever you may be in life. If He is willing to enter a Gentile’s home and cure his servant in person, He surely won’t turn you or me away!
This is exactly what merciful love looks like. It is a love that involves mutual humility: ours, in the acknowledgment of our weaknesses before God, and His, in extending His saving mercy to us. If you are a Catholic then you know the words “I am not worthy…” and each time you repeat the centurion’s words at Mass, it is important to make a point to reinforce this message. Jesus will take care of your needs. He will forgive you of your sins. He will always respond to your humility with His own humility and kindness.