Monday, December 03, 2007

Monday in the 1st Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Priest
Our Christmas Destination

Readings: Isaiah 4:2-6; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4b, 4cd-5, 6-7, 8-9; Matthew 8:5-11

December is here again. And, as always, our preparations for and celebration of Christmas will probably take us to many different places. We will be jostling elbow to elbow at the malls for those obligatory holiday purchases. We will be chatting with colleagues, friends and relatives at pleasant office-parties and homely get-togethers. Some of us will be vacationing in exotic tourist locations. And, in all likelihood, we will, at some point, also be praying solemnly before the crib and singing with gusto in church.

Yet, wherever we might find ourselves this December, already on this first Monday of Advent, our readings highlight for us the one place that we must all enter and in which we must all remain, the one location without which every other visit will be pointless. We find the clearest indication of where this is in the response to the psalm: let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Isn’t this the point of it all? Isn’t this the one reason why we so carefully yet joyously prepare for the coming of Christ? So that he might gather us all into his Father’s house?

But where exactly is this place? And how do we get there? Where, for us, is the Zion and Jerusalem referred to in the first reading? Where, in our own day, is the Kingdom of heaven that Jesus speaks of in the gospel? No doubt, Advent will involve each of us in pondering over and responding to these questions. And the centurion in today’s gospel offers us a useful model for how we can enter and remain in the Father’s house. For doesn’t Jesus number him among the many who will come from the east and the west…? What’s so special about him?

Clearly he stands out because of his faith in Jesus. But in what does this faith consist? What is it that moves him to do and say the things that so impress the Lord? Several aspects come to the fore. There is, first, his amazing assurance in who Jesus is and what he can do: only say the word and my servant will be healed… This is coupled with his own humble and realistic appraisal of his own standing in the sight of God: I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof… But his appreciation of the disparity between the Lord’s authority and his own unworthiness does not prevent him from seeking Jesus out. Is this not because his humility and faith are matched by his profound realization of the urgency of his need, and not just his own personal need, but also that of someone whom he loves? Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully…

If Jesus is truly the reason for the season, then the Father’s house is its true destination. And the centurion shows us how to get there.

Where will you be this Advent?

No comments:

Post a Comment