June 19, 2010

St. Nikolai Velimirovich on the Faith of The Centurian

An excerpt from the Homily by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
on the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 8:5-13

The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. What a vast difference between this burning faith and the cold, legalistic beliefs of the Pharisees! A difference no less than that of fire that burns and a picture of fire. When one of the Pharisees invited Christ to his house for supper, 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 fragrant oil (Lk. 7: 44-46).

See how humble and repentant was this "pagan"—to whom it was not given to know Moses and the prophets, and who had his natural mind as the only light for distinguishing truth and falsehood, good and evil—before the Lord. He, a Roman officer, knew that every other man in Capernaum would be honored to come under his roof; he saw in Christ, though, not an ordinary man but God Himself. He therefore said: I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof. What great faith in Christ and His power! "Speak the word only, and the sickness will be overcome and my servant will get up!" The Apostle Peter himself was not, for a very long time, able to come to such faith. The centurion sensed in Christ's presence the presence of heaven itself—heavenly fire and heavenly light. Why should so much fire enter under his roof when one spark would be enough? Why bring the whole sun into the house when one ray was sufficient? Had the centurion known the Scriptures, as we know them today, he might have said to Christ: "Thou, who by Thy word didst create the world and mankind, Thou canst raise the sick with a word! One little word is enough from Thee, for it is stronger than fire and brighter than a ray of sunlight; speak the word only!" Oh, how this great faith on the part of a pagan must shame many of us today, who know the Scriptures but have a hundred times less faith!

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