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The Beauty of Vulnerability

Matthew 8:5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum, an army captain approached him to ask his help, "Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralyzed and suffers terribly." Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."

The captain answered, "I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to one: 'Go,' he goes, and if I say to another: 'Come,' he comes, and to my servant: 'Do this,' he does it."

When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those who were following him, "I tell you, I have not found such faith in Israel. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven."

Astonished is a very strong word. To be astonished – this is not just to be surprised – this is so much more. To be astonished – it is to be filled with amazement. This certainly doesn’t happen too often. It is a memorable moment and a moment of deep feeling.

In the Gospel today we hear the word astonished. Jesus was astonished. Jesus had a moment of deep feeling. He was astonished at the faith of the Centurion and because of this man’s faith Jesus recognised how faith would develop. There were going to be no limits to faith. Jesus recognised humanities potential for faith in the centurion. He knew that many were going to be as faithful as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These were the great God fearing men from history.

You might wonder why Jesus would be astonished. Jesus could only be astonished by a great surprise – by something he did not expect. We are always inclined to think that there is nothing that Jesus doesn’t know or expect. He is God. However, God loves us and respects us so much that he gave us our own free will. Yes, God built part of himself into us – in our souls. He gave us his Spirit but he also gave us the freedom to choose how we responded to him alive in our lives. This is how God can be astonished; he can be astonished by our choices, by our response to him. Jesus’ astonishment reveals that God never takes our response to him for granted.

If you think about the result that this attitude of God – this trust of God has – think about the vulnerability that this has created for God. He has placed part of himself is in our hands, our heads, our hearts, our souls.

The closest that we come to it in earthly terms to think about this is when we are in love with someone – when we really love someone. Then we reveal our complete vulnerability to them. Therefore, our hearts and our feelings can be easily damaged by what they do. It’s exactly the same for God with us. God can be so easily hurt by our actions. We should perhaps focus more on the vulnerability of God rather than on God as a fixer or perhaps even our servant.

As adults we can all get to a point when we realise what our parents or whoever raised us did for us when we were growing up. The penny drops and we be in awe of our parents, astonished, different from when we were children and didn’t see any vulnerability in them. Then we were in awe of their knowledge and strength, even if we didn’t admit it. However, when we reach a level of maturity in our relationship with our parents it’s the opposite, we see the complete vulnerability that our parents had because they loved us.

While we all mature in different ways and at different times, and this is good, perhaps, no matter what stage of maturity we are at, if we think about how our actions, thoughts and behaviour impacts on someone that loves us beyond anything we can imagine, we may be able to reach a level of maturity in our relationship with God that recognises his vulnerability. We can be astonished by this but also mature enough to ask ourselves before we do anything “how will this impact on God? Would he be hurt or offended if I take this? If I do that?”

I think being aware of the vulnerability of God is perhaps one of the most defining points in our lives. It brings us to a level of maturity that we can never go back from. Now it doesn’t mean that we never sin again, but it does mean that because we know how our sin impacts on God the sin becomes a bigger burden for us. Because sin becomes a bigger burden our inclination towards it can be reduced. We may find ourselves frequenting Confession more regularly because of this. We are truly blessed with all that God has made available to sustain us. Confession and his Precious Body and Blood allow us to live lives of freedom. We live with freedom from sin, freedom from guilt, freedom from all addictions. We live as the free children of God.

Matt Talbot, intercede for us.

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