Lent 2, Saturday, Year A

Inspired by Luke 7:1-10

“When [the centurion] heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.  When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’  And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you.  But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.’”  Luke 7:3-7 (NRSV)

Worthiness.  It’s a concept that has more power in Christian practice than it ought.  The Jewish elders described the centurion, a Roman soldier, as ‘worthy’ of having Jesus heal his slave.  They based his worthiness on his actions of kindness and charity towards the Jewish people.  In our own Christian practice, we do the same.  We look at people, judge their actions, and determine whether they are worthy or unworthy of Christ’s love and grace.

Yet God in Christ does not judge worthiness the way that we do, and many of those we consider unworthy of his attention are those most in need of it.  People who struggle daily just to survive, who are exploited or abandoned by others, who have never known kindness or charity—these are no less worthy of Christ’s grace than those who are publicly known and revered for their generous gifts and pious activities.

The centurion himself knew that his actions did not entitle him to Jesus’ obedience to his wishes.  He recognized that his own social status was nothing compared to Jesus’ holiness, and he countered the elders’ claims of his worthiness with his own claim of unworthiness.  Rather than relying on his past good works, he threw himself and the fate of his slave under the mercy of Christ, which is where we all belong.

Let us pray.  Merciful Lord, you alone are worthy.  Help us to put good works in their proper place, that we may humbly request your grace in our lives.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.