The words of the centurion are forever immortalised in the response that we make just before we receive Holy Communion at Mass – Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I will be healed. The reasoning of the centurion that accompanies his version of the above sentiment is very instructive. Let us have a look at it.

The centurion is accustomed to having those under him in the army obey his commands without question. If he says something, he expects the person to whom he is speaking to act upon his words. He then translates this immediacy of action – this sufficiency of words of command, to the authority of Jesus words. As a man in authority, he knows that his words are enough to ensure that the task will be completed. The men under him will obey his commands to the letter. Likewise, he too will entrust his situation to the authority of Jesus’ words. Jesus does not have to be physically present to heal his servant as the centurion knows that Jesus has the authority to do this and that that is sufficient.

The centurion is willing to humbly submit his request and the health of his servant to the authority of Jesus. Herein lies the critical lesson for us. Obedience will only be present in a person’s life if they are willing to humbly submit their lives to the authority of the person(s) in charge of them.

This is most important in the life of a disciple of Jesus. There is not true discipleship without obedience and there will be no true obedience without humility. It is often not easy to be humble, as it requires a certain willingness to let go of the desire to assert one’s self at all times. We are often taught to be self-assertive. This is not a bad thing so long as it is exercised at the appropriate time, and with the proper humility.

Jesus lived His life in submission to the will of His Father. He did not just go about doing what he felt like doing. In John’s Gospel He often tells us that His whole life is spent doing the will of the Father and speaking the words that He (The Father) tells Him (Jesus) to speak.

How willing am I to listen to those in authority over me? Have I willingly submitted my life to the will of God?

Lord Jesus, you have shown me that the way to salvation and eternal life lies in obedience to the Father’s will for my life. Help me to surrender everything into the hands of your Holy Spirit so that I may always do you will.