Faith, Humility, and Communion

Live Audio recording

4th Sun after Pent. The Marvelous Centurion: July 10, 2022;  

Glory to Jesus Christ!  In our Gospel today Christ marvels at the centurion, saying that He has not found such great faith, not even in Israel. In him we have glorious examples of both faith and humility, for they go hand in hand. Faith in ourselves, in our own strength, wisdom, talent, leads to pride; faith in Christ leads to humility, as we recognize how little we truly know, no matter what we have managed to attain to in the eyes of the world.

The Centurion in today’s Gospel tells Christ; “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.” This is a deep and profound expression of our unworthiness before Christ. The Greek word is “nikanos”, it is the same word Saint John the Baptist uses when he says that he is not worthy to loosen the sandal strap of the Lord. St. John Chrysostom’s pre-communion prayers start out “O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy (nikanos) nor sufficiently pleasing that You should come under the roof of the house of my soul…” I hope you are familiar with this pre-communion prayer as it is the first of the 5 pre-communion prayers by St. John Chrysostom included the standard set of recommended pre-communion prayers. This is the fear of God, the beginning of wisdom.

The Eucharist is a gift from God for our salvation that we can never deserve. It is important that we take communion seriously; that we make the effort to fast from the evening before, unless we have medical issues, and try to pray at least some of the pre and post communion prayers. We should be partaking of the sacrament of confession regularly. Particularly when we have something on our conscience, we need to come to confession. The sacrament of confession is not directly tied to coming for communion, but is yet another of the loving gifts our Lord has given us for the healing of body and soul. While we must do our part in preparing to receive this awesome gift of the very body and blood of Christ, we must always be aware, that it is a “gift” from God. It can never be earned, but because our God loves us beyond anything we can begin to comprehend, we come in our unworthiness to the fountain of immortality, and receive this precious and life sustaining gift, in faith, love, and humility!

Christ clearly said, John (6:27) “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life…” (John 6:48) “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:53-56) “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day. For My flesh is food indeed and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” This is a great mystery, we need the faith of the centurion, for the gospel says when Christ explained this (John 6:66) “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

Yet from the very beginning of the Church and through every generation and century up until today here at St. Aidan’s, we the faithful, have come to the fountain of immortality!

Christ unites with our very body and soul in communion. We don’t fully understand or appreciate this great transformational gift we receive. As we receive the very body and blood of Christ in fear and love, we become His body! This bypasses our intellect and is beyond our analytical comprehension. In humility and in obedience to what Christ imparted to His apostles, we gratefully receive this gift beyond all gifts, and we are transformed. Our spirit is fed and is aware of the transformation that our entire being undergoes, but we are often disconnected from spiritual awareness. We spend most of our time consuming the material things of the earth, good things, as we are material creatures in need of sustenance, but when they become our entire food source, our spirit withers. Pursuing comfort, pleasure and sumptuous living does not feed our spirits. We need time for Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving and the most essential super-food for spiritual growth, attending Divine Liturgy as often as possible and receiving Communion.

Although we can never understand the gift of the Holy Eucharist intellectually, we partake through the eyes of faith and the humility of obedience. With the modern advance of our scientific understanding, we are starting to get glimpses of how God has fearfully and wonderfully made us. Perhaps we can help our poor troubled intellect a little. We have the entire field of homeopathic medicine, where tiny micro doses are said to have great impacts on our bodies. We know that in pharmacology, a tiny pill can do incredible things. The tiniest dose of a psychedelic substance such as LSD can completely alter our perception of reality… So when we receive the very body and blood of Christ Himself, should it be such a completely incomprehensible surprize that we are altered spiritually and physically, and as He told us, we are joined to Him and abide in Him and He in us?

The Centurion in today’s Gospel, in faith, not only recognized that this was his Lord, but understood humility and the fear of God. He somehow understood his place in truth and reality, as a created creature addressing his Creator, and he approached his Creator with awe and respect; with the fear of God that is our Creator’s due. In Luke, the Jewish elders tell Christ what a wonderful benefactor the Centurion was. Why he had even built them a synagogue! But it wasn’t the building of the synagogue that impressed Christ or that we remember. Today that building is lost and buried in the sands of time. It is the centurion’s faith that proved to be of eternal value. The Centurion was very aware of the Jewish faith and the promises of the coming Messiah, and recognized Him in Jesus. In all the Gospels, only the Centurion’s faith caused Christ to marvel in appreciation.

We all have a deep God-given drive within us to have faith, to come home to our Father. We are designed to have faith. It is critically important that this God-given need is properly directed towards its intended recipient – God himself. Christ said (John 14:6) “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Faith in anything but God is inevitably idolatry. We often misdirect our faith and choose a substitute, which eventually will prove to let us down and cause great disappointment or worse lose of faith in God Himself. Faith that is not directed to God and based on truth is better defined as delusion

Often great disillusionment occurs because someone we have placed on a pedestal has not lived up to our idealized image of them. This is almost inevitable when we focus on an individual to put our faith in, rather than on Christ Himself. All married couples quickly discover this – thus the phrase “the honeymoon is over.” Faith in one’s spouse will be put to the test many times; and repentance and much forgiveness, greatly aided by faith properly directed to Christ will be required to stay on course. Please, do not put your complete faith in Fr. Andrew, Archbishop Iréneé, Metropolitan Tikhon, or anyone else other than Christ. We can certainly also trust His precious mother the Theotokos and all the saints, but only because they are entirely filled with Christ and have already entered the kingdom. We recognise that the holiness of all the saints is due only to Christ in them.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

The faith of the Centurion which Jesus marvelled at was 100% focused and directed towards Christ. So today we learn from the centurion, not just humility and faith, but that only faith in Christ will save us and keep us within His blessed family.