Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday in the 1st Week of Advent
The Grace of Recognition


Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-9; Matthew 8:5-11

One word, one quality, comes to mind as we listen to the readings on this first Monday of Advent. Even as we prepare our hearts, even as we eagerly await, the coming of Christ both at the last day and in each passing moment of everyday, our readings invite us to reflect upon some of those who experience the great fulfillment of their longing. And if there is one characteristic that all these have in common, it is the capacity for recognition.

Consider the first reading. How does it come about that the Lord will wield authority over the nations such that nations will not lift sword against nation? Is it not through the willingness of all nations to recognize the Lord’s authority, and in that recognition, to further recognize one another as sisters and brothers in him, and so to stream together eagerly to the Temple of the Lord?

And do we not see the same thing in the gospel? How is the Centurion’s servant restored to health and wholeness? Is it not through the willingness of the Centurion – himself a person of authority – to recognize and acknowledge the authority of a humble itinerant Jewish teacher? And prior to this, is it not also due to the Centurion’s capacity to recognize and acknowledge kinship with one whose social status is far below his own? Even more, doesn’t the healing of the servant come about also through the capacity of Jesus himself to see beyond the outer appearance – and beyond all stereotypes – of one who is both a gentile and an officer in the occupying Roman army, and to recognize in him a deep and genuine faith?

And we can go further, can we not? Isn’t the very ministry of Jesus itself the result of the willingness of a mighty yet compassionate God to continue to recognize and acknowledge kinship with his people, with us, even when we may have given sufficient cause for him to forsake us?

In an age when the differences among us – national, ethnic, religious, ideological, temperamental – often seem to present insurmountable barriers to the lasting peace that Isaiah describes, perhaps our special prayer for this advent might be the grace of recognition.

How and in whom is the Lord inviting us to recognize his coming today?

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