First Day of Lent, Ash Wednesday
Scripture: St. Luke 7:1-10 (NKJV)
1 Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5 for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”
6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.
The important contrast in today’s reading is between the elders’ words about the centurion, the centurion’s words about himself, and our Lord’s words about him.
The elders fell into the usual error of the Jews, where they focused on the works of man for one’s worthiness before God. They praised the centurion to Christ because the man “loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” It is indeed a good thing to serve people and support the Church, but these are not things that make one worthy of God’s favor. They are works that ought to flow out of faith, created by the Holy Spirit and the only thing that truly brings us God’s favor on account of Christ Jesus.
On the other hand, the centurion showed humility. “I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.” He did not try to appeal to his deeds, but recognized that Christ had great authority. He humbly asked the Lord to use that power and authority to have mercy, not on himself, but on another, his dear servant.
This attitude of the centurion was recognized by the Lord as great faith! It is a tremendous blessing that God should praise any of us for our faith, especially in front of others as an example. However, the glory still does not go to the centurion, or any of us who receive such recognition. The glory still, and always, belongs to God, because it is He Who creates and fulfills that faith by His Spirit, the Word of Jesus Christ, and the Sacraments that strengthen our faith!
We pray: Heavenly Father, make us truly faithful and meek before the glory of Your holy presence, and bless us by the authority of Your Word and the salvation we receive in Jesus Christ. Amen.