When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.’
What amazes you? What is it that leaves you speechless and full of wonder? Is it the unexpected good, or the unexpected bad, that we occasionally see in people? Is it some act of kindness, or cruelty, that could not be foreseen? Is it the beauty of nature, or the wonder of another’s creativity? Or, are you one of those people who do not allow themselves to be ‘amazed’ by anything; one of those who greet everything with a stoic cynicism based on a fatalistic acceptance of whatever might befall you day by day?
We live in an amazing world. We are surrounded by wondrous examples of God’s unlimited imagination and desire to create the perfect world. As well as the wonders of the natural world, including the humanity he created in his own image, we enjoy the intellectual and artistic freedom that God has bestowed upon us. Even if we do not understand it, we live in the midst of a creation that fits together perfectly in order that we might all live in a world that provides for all our needs. But … do we appreciate all of this?
Many of those in positions of power and influence, and many of those they govern, seem to have lost their sense of wonder and amazement. They seem to be driven by profit and power alone, seeking to be the biggest and the best, no matter what harm that may do to others. Those who do not run countries or big businesses are no better. They create power-bases of their own, seeking to influence and control those whom they perceive to be weaker than themselves. It is so easy for both great and small to adopt the same level of disinterest when it comes to showing amazement and wonder at the smallest, but most beautiful things in this world.
In today’s reading we hear of Jesus hearing the testimony of a centurion whose servant was paralysed and in terrible distress. In response to the centurion’s request, Jesus offers to go and cure the servant. Then comes that which causes Jesus to be amazed … the centurion, in terms of the military hierarchy with which he is so familiar, makes the greatest declaration of faith. The Roman officer testifies to his belief in Jesus’ power and authority, a power and authority that does not need his physical presence. Jesus is amazed and proclaims the faith of the occupying oppressor’s representative to be greater than that of the religious faithful amongst whom he is ministering every day. Jesus was amazed, but so would the Jewish authorities (those who would have described themselves in terms of ‘faithfulness’) have been amazed.
Today, Jesus is asking us to consider where we stand in matters of faith. Are we with the political and financial leaders of our day, or are we ready to be amazed by the wonders God works in our midst every moment of every day? Are we so self-assured that we would align ourselves with the religious leaders of Jesus’ own days, or are we ready to amaze others by the humility and depth of our faith? Are we ready to make the journey of self-denial in order that others may come to know Christ, or are we going to be the stumbling blocks that Jesus condemns elsewhere in the gospel narrative?