“Lord, I am not worthy to have You enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. As we profess these words with faith when the priest holds the Body of Christ before us – does it ever occur to us that these words are offered for us and memorialized in the liturgy by someone who would not have likely been considered to be a good Catholic Christian? These words are not of someone in the inner circle or who was likely with Jesus at many of the various key moments through Galilee or Jerusalem, unless it was to oversee the soldiers who were monitoring Jesus; and then the inner circle might have been treated these soldiers and the centurion with suspicion. In this part of Matthew’s Gospel, we also hear other accounts of people reaching out to the Messiah in unconventional ways.
The Old Testament prophecy about the coming of the Messiah suggests that God would send His Messiah to redeem Israel, and surely many people had their own beliefs that this would benefit them and only them as they stayed on the “inside tract” of their faith. There were many who were ready to accept and believe that they were to be redeemed for what they had been doing to “keep on the right side of the Law”. But there were many who, for various reasons were on the outside looking in. We also know that there were many who were “on the right side of the Law” who were not able to open their hearts and minds to Jesus as the Messiah, doing exactly what He came to do –because what their own sense of righteous provided them was a limitation to who was to be saved and who among them was to be condemned. They were not willing to think “outside the box” and because of this, they projected their own limitation on our Lord and Saviour.
Jesus knew no such limitation, and today’s Gospel is an example of this. He praises the faith of the centurion, and in healing his servant from afar gives us all yet another example of his unlimited scope and reach in bringing people back to God.
I am in the process of reading and praying over “Gaudete et Exsultate” [Rejoice and Be Glad], Pope Francis’ exhortation to us on living our call to holiness. What impresses me the most about this exhortation from the pope is how he highlights the reality of holiness for us. Holiness in life isn’t meant to be for someone else – it’s meant to be for all of us. We are all called to be saints in this world AND I would suggest with all the complexities, problems and issues in the world we are living in – we need saints now more than ever. We aren’t called to look like saints from the past or be like one or another. We are meant to aspire for holiness in the life we are living now. Of course there are common characteristics among saints: an ever growing faith, a present and growing desire to be like Jesus Himself, a desire to work with God’s grace in tackling and overcoming sin in our own lives, deep commitment and desire to be merciful and understanding, a constant desire to love with the unconditional love that has been extended already to each of us, to forgive others in the complete and unconditional way we have been forgiven.
Do you want to become a saint? I know that I do. We need to ask ourselves: “what is standing in the way of me becoming a saint of our Lord Jesus Christ”? The answer to this cannot be what we’ve done in the past – that’s not good enough! The answer is to be found in what are we willing to do today and for the rest of our lives? Are we willing to acknowledge the Power of God and live our lives rejoicing in what God can do with us if we are open to it? Are we ready to love as much as we can, forgive as much as we can? Extend mercy and kindness to everyone we can? Serve others today and every day of our lives? Then we are ready to become saints.
Jesus has not placed limits on us, as the Gospel assures us today. We place limits on ourselves. Are we ready to allow our Lord to lift those limits from us today?