Only Say the Words

I’m at my happy place – the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh – directing at a silent directed retreat (with lots of bells and whistles due to Covid).

Today I offered the reflection at our daily Mass, at which the Gospel was Matthew’s account of two healings: that of the Centurion’s servant and that of Peter’s mother-in-law.  Both of those Gospels are powerful for me, albeit for different reasons.

In my reflection, I spoke about both of those healings, but it is the first of those that has
always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Recently my son-in-law came to disconnect the Wii console from our television.  (My daughter had used to use the console for some dance and exercise programs and no one has used it for years.  So it was time to give it away.)  David disconnected several things from the TV and the power socket, and said, “OK, all done.”  “So my TV and Roku are not affected by this, right” I said.  “Right, everything will work fine.” “Wait,” I said, “just let me check to be sure it all works.”  And he waited with a patient smile while I satisfied myself nothing was amiss.

This was not an isolated incident.  Whenever the IT folks at the University of St. Thomas come to fix something on my computer, or perform an upgrade, I hold them hostage in my office until I check to make sure all the major programs that I use are operational, and they didn’t mess anything up.

So while it would be nice to think I’d act just as the Centurion did.  I have to wonder whether I would have been able to walk away from Jesus, secure that Jesus’ merely saying the words would be enough?

If I’m being fully honest with God, I have to admit that I can’t answer yes to that question with certainty.  Given my tendency to want to see things for myself and my frequent habit of double-checking things I’ve asked others to do for me to make sure they are actually done and done right, I kinda know what my tendency would be in the Centurion’s position.  I’d want to take Jesus by the hand and lead him to my house and to the servant, and then to peer over his shoulder until my servant was actually healed from his paralysis and suffering.  Perhaps I’d even want to feel the servant’s muscles, or have him take a few steps, or perform a few tasks until I let Jesus leave my house.

Not the Centurion.  “Only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  I don’t need to see you do this with my own eyes.  I don’t even need you to be in physical proximity to my servant.  Just say a word right here on the road (which may have been miles away, perhaps even a day’s ride away), and I know it will be done.

A degree of faith that amazes even Jesus. “In no one in Israel have I found such faith.”

I suspect most of us are more like the father of the child in Mark’s Gospel – “I do believe, help my unbelief” – than like this Centurion.  We believe, but we have some cracks in that belief.  We don’t manage 100% of the time to have the solid faith of the Centurion.

So we pray, as did the father in Mark’s Gospel, “Lord, help my unbelief.”  Givbe us the grace to see that God always has our back and will always take care of us.

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