The gospel reading for today (Mt 8:5-11), the first weekday of Advent, gives us the episode of the centurion coming to Jesus on behalf of his suffering servant. The Roman approaches Jesus telling Him of his servant’s sorry state. Jesus offers to come and cure the sick man, but the soldier deems himself unworthy to have Jesus come into his home but rather knows that Jesus has the power and the authority to cure from afar. Immediately following this proclamation, Jesus stands amazed and tells the crowd that this is the most faithful man He has encountered yet. Jesus closes by telling them that the Kingdom will welcome many faithful foreigners.
What does it take to amaze Jesus? I only found one other place in the Bible outside this encounter (which is also recounted in Luke with some different details) where Jesus was described as being amazed. That is in Mark 6:6 where Jesus is amazed at the unbelief of Him of those in His hometown of Nazareth. Extraordinary faith (of a man who likely knew very little about Jesus but still believed) vs. extraordinary doubt (of a community that knew very much about Jesus but still could not bring themselves to belief). These are the only things that cause Jesus to marvel (as the RSV puts it). We, thus, can amaze Jesus as well. But how will we amaze Him? Will it be through humility, like the centurion, who recognized his own unworthiness, but put complete faith in Jesus as a man who could do anything, at anytime, from anywhere? Or does our familiarity breed, if not contempt (hopefully!), an approach to God that yields half-hearted prayers that we really don’t expect to be answered? Note that the Roman soldier does not explicitly ask Jesus for help but simply explains his concern. Maybe he was going to say more, but Jesus, recognizing the situation, offers to cure the sick man. The Lord knows what we need before we even ask for it (cf. Mt 6:8). He is more than willing to give us every good thing. Will we amaze Jesus with our faith or the lack thereof?
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