Today’s Reading: Matthew 8:1-17
I can’t remember a time in my life when I did not know about God’s omnipotence; it’s one of the first characteristics that we learn about Him, that He is Lord and can do anything. But what does that really mean? Saint Augustine, trying to capture God with language, wrote the following in his Confessions:
Therefore, what are you, my God? What, I ask, except the Lord God? For who is Lord except the Lord? Or who is God except our God? Highest, best, most powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, most secret and most present, most beautiful and most strong, stable and incomprehensible, immutable yet changing everything, never new, never old, renewing everything and conducting the proud into old age– and they do not know; always acting, always at rest, gathering yet not in need, bearing and filling and producing, creating and nourishing and maturing, seeking, though nothing is lacking from You.
Here, the stunning reality comes to the forefront: God is so powerful, so good, so omnipotent and omnipresent and desiring of our love that our language cannot adequately contain Him. I think that sometimes we forget, or can easily lose sight of, how marvelous the Lord is, and how awesome (in the word’s most literal sense) His power is. We often walk through life as Christians, beating our chests to the rhythm of “All things through Christ,” without pausing to contemplate its significance.
In this portion of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, we are jostled from our comfort, pulled to our feet, and met, face-to-face, with the Lord’s dominion: Christ encounters suffering men and women, and by a mere word, cleanses them of their illnesses. Christ says, “Be made clean” to the leper, and his “leprosy was cleansed immediately”; He tells the centurion, “Let it be done for you,” and “at that very hour [his] servant was healed”; and for those plagued with demons, “He drove out the spirits by a word.” The Lord’s word has authority over all of creation; as Bishop Robert Barron once said, “God speaks, and things are.”
For us, living centuries after Christ walked on Earth, these miracles can be difficult to comprehend. We may never have met someone suffering from leprosy, much less seen his or her disease vanish at the Lord’s direction. We may have heard of, or experienced, unexplained miracles of healing, born out of loyal Christian prayer and fasting, but (chances are) the Lord in His human form did not vocalize any command.
So, for us, a different kind of faith is required. The figures in these stories from Saint Matthew were called to look at Christ in His perfect humanity, and believe simultaneously in His perfect divinity; we, who do not encounter Christ walking around with us, are called to trust that the authority of Christ’s word is real, and that it extends into the chaos of our everyday, modern lives.
We are called to look to the leper, confident in God’s power and mercy, and who, despite the burning desire to be healed, surrenders completely to the will of God: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” We ought to pray with great faith for things we believe to be good, we believe to be timely, we believe to be necessary, but end every prayer echoing, “Thy Will be done,” trusting that God’s goodness, timing, and wisdom infinitely exceed our own.
We are called to imitate the centurion, who recognizes Christ as King. In the original Greek, the word for “word” in verse 8 is λόγῳ, which translates literally as “with a word”; in the English translation, “only say the word,” we lose the sense of the centurion’s deep faith. Not only did he recognize Christ’s ability to heal, but he recognized Christ’s ability to heal by means of a single word: “Only speak with a word, and my servant will be healed.” Like the centurion, we ought to implore Christ on others’ behalves wholeheartedly, clinging to the truth that no situation is beyond God’s control, for He has conquered the world (Jn 16:33).
We are called to emulate the friends and family of the demoniacs, who, similar those who lower the paralytic through the roof, lead their suffering friends to the feet of Christ. We cannot be complacent in our relationships with others; we ought to proclaim that Christ is Lord in all that we do, by allowing others to encounter Him in our love, and by encouraging others to meet Him in prayer and in His Sacraments. We must imitate Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who once wrote,
Pray– I must be able to give only Jesus to the world. People are hungry for God. What [a] terrible meeting [it] would be with our neighbor if we give them only ourselves.
Particularly in this Lenten period, we can look to these witnesses and renew our faith in God’s omnipotence. We can affirm our believe in the authority of His word, from strengthening ourselves to understand and to accept difficult Church teachings, from learning more about and adoring more fully His true presence in the Eucharist, and from surrendering a little more completely to the words of the centurion that we repeat in the Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”
This Lent, the Lord is challenging you to wake up as confident in Him as you are that today is a Monday; He is challenging me to know that I can do all things through Him as firmly as I know that English 178X meets in Sever 113; and He is challenging us to trust in Him and in His Church, to lift our crosses upon our shoulders, and to follow Him as He approaches Cavalry.
Meredith Jones ’19 is a Classical Languages and Literatures concentrator in Mather.