Faith Great and Small (Matthew 8: 5 – 13)

The centurion before Christ

The account of the healing of the centurion’s servant as recording in St. Matthew’s gospel (Mt 8: 5 – 13) is a demonstration of great faith by the gentile Roman. The exchange between Jesus and the centurion occurred as Jesus was entering Capernaum: “A centurion approached him urging him to heal his servant saying, ‘Lord, my servant has been placed in my house paralyzed and is suffering greatly’” (MT 8: 6). Jesus agrees to come to heal the servant. However, the centurion objects and gives his famous response: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under the roof of my house, but only say the word and my servant will be healed” (MT 8: 8). Our Lord marveled at this and gives his commentary: “Truly, truly I say to you in no one in Israel have I found such faith!” (Mt 8: 10).

In this gospel passage we have an account of a great demonstration of faith manifested before Christ, his disciples, and the crowd that followed along that day. Such great demonstrations of faith are rare. In fact, Jesus also marveled at lack of faith (Mk 6: 6). Therefore, we dare not have fantasies that we will be able to make such a great demonstration of our personal faith, and have such an outcome as did the centurion. Such an opportunity may come our way, but would we able to respond in a way that would please our Lord? Honestly, we may fail.

However, we are given lesser chances to demonstrate our faith every day. These exercises of faith are quiet and private. They will likely be witnessed only by God as we move through our lives — mundane as they may be. So, we should see such small opportunities as great opportunities to grow our personal faith in Christ. For example, a novice to weight lifting cannot expect to bench press 200 pounds on day one. This would be both foolish and dangerous. Rather, lesser weights are engaged along with some proper assistance and even coaching. This method will increase strength and stamina, and the goal obtained.

Daily exercises of faith are everywhere — we just need to open our eyes and our hearts to the opportunities before us. With every encounter, every situation we have the choice of consent or denial. If we consent to the situation/encounter before us we enter into it. With our consent we are transformed. With our consent we enter more fully into the life of Christ. With our consent our faith grows. By our consent we are in a relationship with the circumstance and those who are in it with us. With this entrance we exert faith as we are in Christ. If we deny the opportunity we atrophy and faith remains weak.

What is our mindset to be? What spiritual tools do we have to guide us? St. Paul offers this:

Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in, with, and for all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thes 5: 16 – 18).

In the challenging situation we can either deny the opportunity and walk away, or consent to engage the situation with joy, prayer and thanksgiving for the opportunity. When the challenging, difficult person is encountered we can choose to deny and walk away, or consent and engage the person with joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. Faith isn’t an intellectual concept. It is not an emotion. Faith is demonstrated by action.

Furthermore, when we consent with joy, prayer, and thanksgiving we are living eucharistically. When we, by faith, consume the Body and Blood of Christ he is in us and we are in him. With consent’s faith, joy, prayer, and thanksgiving we bear Christ into each and every situation. And, by our ongoing participation in every Divine Liturgy, we bring all we do by faith back to the Altar. Here all we do by faith are joined to the gifts of bread and wine where they have their transformation in Christ in the Eucharist: “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto thee in behalf of all and for all!”

I conclude with a prayer I offer to you:

Heavenly Father, I pray this day I would be living the eucharistic life which is in accordance to your will for me in Christ Jesus. Thus, by the Holy Spirit may I be giving thanks in, with, and for all things, that I might bear Christ to all and all things, and bear all and all things to Christ Jesus; that I might be self-giving and other-receiving, and come to live as broken bread and poured out wine for the life of the world and the sake of all things, to the praise and glory of your Name. Amen.

The following is a corresponding sermon:

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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