Yesterday's Gospel (Matthew 8:5-11) contained one of my favorite scenes in the NT, the story of the Centurian asking Jesus to heal his servant.
I've often jokingly said that I must not have been a very good Protestant, because I found it so easy to convert to Catholicism. In all likelihood, it was probably because I'd let my faith go so slack over the years that everything seemed new again when I started studying to enter the Church. One of the biggest revelations in those early years would come when I heard a particularly familiar verse - whether from the Mass or popular conversation - coming from one of the readings, and I could hear it in its entirety rather than just a sound bite. (Can you tell I wasn't reading the Bible as much as I should have in those days?)
And so it was here. It must have been around 1998 or so, and I remember watching the daily Mass on EWTN before heading to work, Deacon Bill reading the Gospel. And as the passage unfolded it suddenly dawned on me what I was hearing, and that it was providing the context for the "Lord, I am not worthy" that we recite as the priest displays the Host after the Agnus Dei. It's always fun hearing something familiar in an unexpected context; here it was even better, because I was actually learning something. That moment following the Agnus Dei - the priest saying "This is the Lamb of God," followed by our response - had already become one of my favorite moments in the Mass, and this solidified it for me.
Nowadays at the Latin Mass we attend at St. Agnes, I use the literal words in my interior translation: "Behold the Lamb of God," "I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof." And when I do, I often think back to the passage we heard yesterday; the humility of the Centurian, his understanding of authority and his willingness to put himself under the authority of this Jesus; and Christ's response, the joy He must have experienced as He healed the servant. We are moved by the story, and encouraged; for none of us is worthy of the salvation that God freely offers us. In presenting our petitions we keep in mind our unworthiness, but we also remember His mercy, which endures forever; we are reminded also of the need for persistence, of coming to Him again and again.
I only hope that I can be as humble when I approach Jesus with my prayers, for surely I am at least as unworthy as the Centurian; and that my testimony, however imperfect, may be as pleasing to Him.