15 March 2021
It must have taken a certain amount of desperation for this royal official to seek Jesus out. A few biblical commentaries say that he was probably a pagan, so right away, he’s not initially going to be open to the idea of a Jewish Messiah. We don’t know how long his son was ill, but we do know that it had become so serious that he begged Jesus to come and heal him.
How much of this is rooted in real belief, and how much of this is desperation? We don’t know, and I’m not sure if it really matters. Because in the end, we read that the man “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.” (v. 50) This doesn’t sound like lukewarm sort-of-belief to me. It sounds like belief brought to fruition by desperation.
Sometimes this is what it takes to throw ourselves into God’s arms. It’s the divorce, the diagnosis given over the phone, or a child’s life-threatening accident. In these moments of terror, we give ourselves over to the one who is always there for us, even if we haven’t realized it up until that moment. Sometimes a shock is needed to jolt faith awake.
In this case, Jesus’ word is enough to save the beloved son. Just as his father created the entire cosmos with his word, Jesus–whom John calls the “Word of God”–heals with a simple word.
Before we receive Communion at Mass, we pray, in part, “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” echoing the centurion. Jesus, the Word of God, is still acting today. He waits for you to say your words, words of faith, which will open the door to him so he can come into your life and act, healing your soul’s wounds. We just have to say the word.
Lord, I am not worth that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.