The Faith, Humility and Healing of Advent, First Monday, December 2, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the First Week of Advent
December 2, 2013
Is 4:2-6, Ps 122, Mt 8:5-11

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Advent involves a double dynamism. The word itself means “coming” and points first to the fact that during this season we renew our awareness that Christ is coming to us in history, mystery and majesty: history in Bethlehem; mystery in the Sacraments, prayer and in those made in his image and likeness; and in majesty at the end of time and the end of our lives. But we don’t wait passively. As we prayed yesterday in the collect to begin the Mass, we beg the Father for the grace of “resolve to run forth to meet” his Son “with righteous deeds at his coming.” Like the wise bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable (Mt 25), we head on out to meet him not merely at times that are convenient but in the middle of the night with lighted lamps. The Advent wreath is meant to symbolize by the lit candles that we are burning in expectation of him and that that expectation grows week by week as we run forth to meet him who is coming to us.
  • Today’s Gospel reading shows what Advent is supposed to look like. The Roman centurion hears that Jesus is on his way to Capernaum, but he’s not content just to wait for him to show up. He goes out to meet him along the way and meets him at the edge of the city. He goes out to meet him with faith. Jesus is amazed that he, a non-Jew, has so much faith and exclaims, “In no one in Israel have I found such faith.” He goes out with humility. When Jesus, having encountered him, says that he will come to the Centurion’s home to heal his servant, the Centurion replies that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his home. Even though he was a powerful leader in the Roman army with many men subject to his beck and call, he was still humble and recognized before Jesus that he did not merit that grace. His faith and humility were, by God’s design, what made the miracle he was asking for possible. And he went out to beg for healing for his servant, knowing that Jesus, even at a great distance, had the power to work a tremendous miracle of healing, bringing someone at the point of death back to life.
  • In Advent, Christians, with resolve, are called to run forth with these same virtues to meet Christ who is coming to us. We need to go not by routine by with faith. Advent isn’t just a yearly ritual of preparation for exchanging gifts at Christmas. It’s a season of faith, in which we await the Lord and go to meet him in new, more profound ways. It’s a season of humility, in which we recognize that we’re not worthy of the Lord who is coming, a reality that is meant to fill us with gratitude at the awesome privilege we have of encountering the Lord. It’s a season of healing, in which the Lord wants to do in us something far greater than he did in the Centurion’s servant, not just raising us physically from the point of death but raising us spiritually from the death of the soul through sin. Advent is a season in which we hear St. John the Baptist’s persistent call to make straight the paths of that encounter with the Lord, to level the mountains of pride, fill up the valleys of a shallow prayer life and allow the Divine Physician surgically to excise from us in the operating room of the confessional whatever sins in us are killing us.
  • This morning, at the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican, Pope Francis said in his homily that in Advent we need to let the Lord change and heal us as he knows we most need. As we run forth to meet the Lord who is coming to meet us, we can’t set conditions on that encounter. It’s meant to be an encounter of faith, of trust in God, and that means that we can’t seek to be the “owners” of the encounter. We must allow ourselves, he said, to be encountered by Jesus, to let him set the conditions. That means we must let him enter into us, to remake everything in us from within, to remake our heart, our soul, our life, our hope, our way of life. We need, the Pope continued, to approach him with faith, like the Centurion, with an open heart, allowing Jesus to tell us what he wants to tell us. That’s normally different from what we like to tell ourselves. To let ourselves be encountered by the Lord means to have the faith, humility and hunger for healing that we will allow Jesus truly to love us and to let that love change us to become more like the one loving us.
  • The best way to live out this life-changing encounter is here at Mass where we come to meet the same Jesus adored by the Magi and Shepherds and the same Jesus who will come for us at the end of time. It’s here at Mass that we’re supposed to approach with faith, allowing Jesus to change us. It’s here where we approach him with great humility and gratitude, knowing we don’t merit this incredible encounter but that he out of love comes for us anyway. And we approach with a recognition of how much we need his healing, in ways far beyond what we see. It’s highly significant that we make our own the words of the Centurion immediately before we approach to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, “O Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We need that healing! We need that word! And each morning at daily Mass we make the same journey of faith as the Centurion, praying for ourselves, for our loved ones and for the whole world. The Lord is coming! Let us run forth to meet him with faith and humility, hungry for his healing!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
IS 4:2-6

On that day,
The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory,
and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor
for the survivors of Israel.
He who remains in Zion
and he who is left in Jerusalem
Will be called holy:
every one marked down for life in Jerusalem.
When the LORD washes away
the filth of the daughters of Zion,
And purges Jerusalem’s blood from her midst
with a blast of searing judgment,
Then will the LORD create,
over the whole site of Mount Zion
and over her place of assembly,
A smoking cloud by day
and a light of flaming fire by night.
For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from storm and rain.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 122:1-2, 3-4B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Gospel
MT 8:5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man 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 and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”