“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” [Lk 7:9].
Was he a pagan as well? Probably not, for we are told “he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us” [Lk 7:5]. And there were many gentiles, especially among the Romans, who were drawn to the monotheistic faith of the Jews. This centurion seems to be among their number.
And the fact that he had sent the Jewish elders to ask for Jesus’ help indicates he clearly understood the demands of any relationship between Jew and gentile. He knew that by approaching Jesus personally and publicly he might place him in an awkward position. He also knew that Jews were forbidden to enter the house of a gentile.
But one thing about him is certain: he was a man of faith, for Jesus tells us so. In fact, Jesus’ miraculous healing of the centurion’s servant is given unique treatment by Luke. The miracle itself is hardly mentioned. Instead Luke focuses on the centurion and his faith. And his is a remarkable faith.
It’s a faith of abandonment and perfect trust, a faith that lets go completely and turns everything over to God.
It’s a faith that places no limits on God, a faith that accepts God’s omnipotence.
It’s a faith that allows God to heal and forgive whenever and however He wants, that allows God to rewrite the laws of nature because they are His laws.
Yes, Jesus was “amazed” by the centurion’s faith, a faith greater than any in Israel.
Throughout the Old Testament, the history of God’s relationship with His people, we encounter men and women of great faith – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Moses and David; Ruth and Esther; Elijah and the prophets. But they all have their moments of doubt, their crises of faith, the times when they turn away from God and try to rely on their own devices.
But with the centurion, we see only constancy, a faith that mirrors the words of Divine Mercy: “Jesus I trust in You.
Indeed, the Church thinks so much of the faith of the centurion that his words are included in the liturgy. At the time during Mass when we celebrate the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist – the Presence Paul preached in today's first reading – we, the faithful, repeat the centurion's act of faith:
"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed" [See Lk 7:6-7].I can think of only one other person who exhibits this kind of faith, this total abandonment to the Will of God. Only Mary, Our Blessed Mother, can hear the words that describe the Incarnation, the miraculous event that will change the world forever, and accept it without question:
“May it be done to me according to your word” [Lk 1:38].And how fitting that today we should celebrate the memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary, a name which in Hebrew, Miryãm, means lady or sovereign. And so she truly is “Our Lady.”
The feast was created by Pope Innocent XI in remembrance of the defeat of the Islamic Turks by the Poles in 1683. The Turks has threatened Vienna and all of Western Europe, and the victory was attributed to Mary’s intercession.
A decade ago Pope Benedict, quoting St. Bernard, encouraged the faithful to:
“…call upon Mary…in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart…If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination” [Pope Benedict Homily, 9/9/2007].Although far too often you and I lack the depth of faith displayed by the centurion, we need only turn to Mary. We can lay our doubts and weak faith at her feet, invoke her holy name, and know she will intercede for us.
As we pray Divine Praises in the Eucharistic Presence:
“Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.”