Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lord, I am not worthy...

This is my homily from Mass for the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.
Only twice do the Evangelists used the word thaumazo in regard to the Lord.  The first is in Mark 6:6 when he is amazed by the lack of faith of the people of his home town.  The second is in today’s Gospel, when he is amazed at the faith of the Centurion.  “I tell you,” he says to the Jewish leaders gathered around him, “not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Now this is really quite remarkable for two reasons.  First, because Jesus never meets the Centurion.  At first, this soldier sends a delegation of Jewish leaders to vouch for him and after that he sends a bunch of his friends to tell Jesus not to enter under his roof, because he knows he is not worthy.  Jesus never meets the Centurion.

And no wonder, for his occupation seems antithetical to everything Jesus is and stands for.  He is a centurion, a soldier in charge of a hundred other soldiers whose main job was persecuting folks like Jesus and his brethren.  

So why is Jesus amazed by the Centurion’s faith?  Precisely because his profession of faith is that he he knows he is unworthy and that he needs Jesus.  Unworthy to so much as touch the hem of the Jesus’s garment, utterly unworthy to even gaze on his face.

Which is why his prayer is the prayer of everyone who eats the Lord’s Body and Drinks his Blood.  “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”

It’s such a powerful prayer that we work up to it at Mass, starting with “Lord, have mercy” and “I have greatly sinned,” and then there are the private prayers of unworthiness for the Deacon about to proclaim the Gospel or the Priest preparing the offerings or about to receive Holy Communion.  These prayers of unworthiness all come to completion in the Centurion’s great act of faith: “Lord, I am not worthy…”

It is the proclamation of she whose Most Holy Name we commemorate today: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness…” “Do whatever he tells you.”

For the most blessed among women and the Centurion with greater faith than the Israelites knew the most important lesson of all: that there is a God and he is not me.  That I am his creation and son and he alone is worthy of glory and honor and praise.

A great philosopher once wrote that should God appear before us, all we could do is bow very low, knowing, at the end of the day, that we are but unworthy servants, who are blessed to be called to the Supper of the Lamb!