The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. “Faith in God” has nothing to do with superstition or magic. It has everything to do with “what really matters in life, trying to find God until no more time is left to search.” (Fr. Michael F. Steltenkamp, S.J., The Sacred Vision, Native American Religion and Its Practice Today, Paulist Press) And finding God is above and beyond anything or anyone that we may idolize.
In today’s Gospel, this centurion senses a power greater than what is humanly possible to save his slave (he also refers to the man as his “servant”).
Jesus responds to the Jewish elders, of all people, who ask Him to come and heal this centurion’s slave. Not his son, daughter, or mother-in-law, but his slave.
In the priorities of what matters, this noble, powerful centurion sees the life of his slave as important to him. Obviously we are not addressing the issue of the morality of slavery here. We are focusing upon a person’s awareness of their own helplessness to do anything more, and a total reliance on a Power Greater Than Human.
Realizing his own inadequacy in not being able to do anything more, and the realization that he is about to meet Jesus, he sends his friend to tell Jesus not to trouble himself in coming any further. “For I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”
At every Eucharist we plea, “but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.” Only say the Word putting our faith in that utterance.
Only speak the word, “Mary.” This feast honors her very name. Just the spoken word and the power within the invocation is unleashed through faith.
The centurion understands how authority and power are passed along through the ranks, so would not the power of the utterance of a word from this holy man Jesus, be sufficient?
Jesus recognizes the man’s faith in such a power through such an invocation.
Today the Church venerates the name of Mary because that name belongs to the name of God. Lets spend some time to reflect on the power in the name, “Mary,” as the object of this feast is to commemorate all the privileges bestowed on Mary, the Mother of God, and the abundance of grace that flows from that relationship.
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P. is president emeritus of Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School, Birmingham, Alabama.