“Lord, I am not worthy….”
Some social scientists may decry the fact that we are living in the “Age of Entitlement.” There are certain elements of US society—often the young, often the rich, but others as well—who believe that certain benefits are owed to them simply because of who they are.
A number of television commercials play to this type of thinking by telling the viewers that “you deserve” this beer or hair care product or car. To which I find myself thinking, “And just what have I done to deserve it?”
Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics that some would consider trivial, but when I use the word “deserve,” it implies some reciprocity for a good deed or a good job done. So while I believe that people in Ethiopia have a fundamental right to adequate food and safe drinking water, I probably wouldn’t agree, as some promoters might say, that they “deserve” those things. I hope I’m making myself clear. Some people should receive assistance not because they “deserve” it but because they have a basic right to it.
The centurion in today’s gospel would have been entitled to certain privileges because of the rank he had attained. By rights, he probably could have made certain demands on Jesus. But this Roman official had two laudable insights: 1) he knew how authority worked and 2) he recognized that Jesus could exercise that authority over disease even from a distance. Though we have never known his name, his faith and humility are etched in the annals of Church history as we echo his words at every Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….” Lord, I do not deserve a soul-healing; I am not entitled to it; but I hope your mercy will provide it.