In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today’s Gospel our Lord said “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matthew 8:10)
What is the faith that our Lord Jesus Christ is speaking of in this verse? What Jesus is speaking of is action that is taken based on knowledge. In the Gospel the centurion’s faith is that he not only believes that Jesus can heal his servant but, he knows that Jesus can heal his servant. This is seen in the Gospel when the centurion says “but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)
Just prior to this the centurion said that he was not worthy to have the Lord enter under the roof of his house. This is another example of his faith. Here he shows his burning faith that lets the honor from this healing be attributed totally to Christ. He seeks nothing for himself.
This should be contrasted by the cold legalistic beliefs of the Pharisees. An example of these cold beliefs is seen when one of the Pharisees invites Jesus to his house for supper in the Gospel of Saint Luke. (Luke 7:36-50) Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic describes these cold legalistic beliefs in the following manner “…he thought in his legalistic arrogance, that he was doing the Lord honor by inviting Him into his house, and not that the Lord was honoring him and his house by entering under his roof. In his arrogance and overweening pride, the Pharisee neglected even the customary expression of hospitality: he neither brought his guest water to wash His feet nor greeted Him with an embrace, nor anointed His head with perfumed oils.
The Apostle Peter took time to come to the same level of faith as the centurion. This is seen in the verses that immediately following today’s Gospel. (Matthew 8: 14-15) We see Saint Peter having the Lord come to his home in order to heal his mother in law in these verses. He doesn’t have the faith to say “just say the word” and she will be healed.
Our Lord marveled at the faith of the centurion. He marveled at this man’s faith in order to show us that great faith is the one thing in the world that is worthy of wonder. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic explains the wonder of great faith with the following “ Christ did not marvel at the beauty of the sea of Galilee, for what is such beauty compared with the beauty of the kingdom of heaven….Neither did He ever marvel at great human wisdom, wealth or strength; for all is nothing compared with the wisdom, wealth and might that are familiar to Him in the Kingdom of God….The great faith of one man is to be marveled at. It is the greatest and most beautiful thing on earth, for by faith a slave becomes free, a hireling becomes a son of God and a mortal man becomes immortal.”
The Holy Prophet Job reminds that great faith is unwavering even in the face of great adversity. Job lost his family, his lands and his health but remained faithful to God. Even his wife told him to “curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9) Job’s response to all his suffering was “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) We also see this great faith in the lives of the martyrs. They bore witness to the truth through their faith and received crowns of glory.
So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you have great faith that you may be like the centurion and know that the Lord only has to say the word and it will be so and that you may receive crowns of glory through your struggles in witnessing to the faith.
Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost 2009.