Today’s Gospel, Luke 7:1-10:
When Jesus had finished all his words to the people,
he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come here, and he comes; and to my slave, Do this, and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
The centurion Our Lord encountered in Capernaum teaches us why we should not judge by external appearance. As an occupying soldier, especially one with authority, most people would have assumed that he was a faithless sinner–his good works written off as political posturing. Even if our judgments of others are often correct we should not judge. The Lord judges hearts, whereas we can only judge by appearances.
Who are we to say that one person is holy and another not? While external appearances give indications as to the internal dispositions of persons, we cannot know–with surety–what those internal dispositions are.
I would not want to be a person who passes judgment on another, when it turns out that the other pleases God in ways unseen, and I don’t. Conversely, we might lift up someone we think to be holy, but in actuality he or she could displease God with mortal sins on daily basis. This doesn’t mean that we should have a suspicion that others are secret sinners; it just means that we should be careful in passing judgment about others. God judges hearts while we see appearances.
The blessed centurion teaches more than the way we should approach others–he teaches us the way we should approach ourselves. At every moment we should say with him, “Lord, I am not worthy.” Because we are not!