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 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 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.” (Matthew 8:5-11)
Step with me into the scene of today’s scripture.
Jesus is surrounded by his disciples and a large group which would have included some Pharisees and Scribes. A Roman soldier approaches, the very symbol of all that the Israelites despised. He risked the ridicule of his cronies as well as mockery from the Jews by seeking help from a traveling preacher from Galilee. Yet, he persevered and was rewarded.
There is much here that serves as a primer for the season of Advent. The centurion models for us those interior virtues we need this Advent and beyond to run out to truly encounter the Lord.
First, he went out to meet Jesus with faith. Jesus is amazed that he, a non-Jew, has so much faith. The Centurion had a confident assurance that God could give him the miracle that he sought, even if he didn’t see it done. At the beginning of Advent, we should assess the dimensions of our faith. Is it faith for the holidays? Occasional faith? Faith when we have a petition? Or is it the faith that guides and strengthens our lives?
At the root of our faith should be a true desire to be obedient to the words of Jesus Christ. Obedience is a tough word for some; they view it somehow as infringing on their personal freedoms.
Guess what. It does.
We are not the creators of our lives. Our Lord is. We cannot fashion a kingdom for us to pass to. Our Lord does. There is no need to enumerate more. You get it. So do I. He asks only that we bring alive his teachings in the actions of our lives. Those teachings must be lived in our thoughts, our words, our social media posts, in everything we do. If we do that, a small miracle happens within us
Faith leads to obedience and obedience similarly strengthens our faith. Advent is a time when each of us should open our hearts to God and proclaim that he is the goal of our faith journey. He alone has our obedience.
The third Advent virtue also strengthens our faith. It’s humility. Even though the centurion was a powerful leader in the Roman army, he was still humble and recognized before Jesus that he did not merit even a visit. Advent is a season of humility in which we recognize that we’re not worthy of the Lord who is coming. That’s not a diminution of who we are but rather a reality that is meant to fill us with gratitude at the awesome privilege we have of encountering the Lord.
As the Lord comes to us this Advent, we need to renew our relationship with him. Not because it’s that time of year but rather for us to be reborn with him at Christmas. Our age, our lives, our mistakes, all of the things of our lives that have weakened our relationship with him stand ready to be absolved, renewed and filled.
Reach out to Jesus today in faith, acknowledging him as the Lord of our lives, and recognizing with a simple humbleness the enormity of his love for us.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you feed us daily with your life-giving word and you sustain us on our journey to our true homeland with you and the Father in heaven. May I never lose hope in your promises nor lag in zeal for your kingdom of righteousness and peace.”
What are we hoping for this Advent? Perhaps we have one overwhelmingly pressing need–”a servant lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully”–or perhaps there are many concerns in our heart. Do we bring these worries to God? Are we waiting for the coming of the Messiah, Our Lord, confident in his power to transform hearts? Or have we perhaps let our spirit grow weak, to the point of eliminating all expectations? Jesus is coming. He is Emmanuel, God with us, and he wants to renew our hearts this Christmas. Let us open the doors of our hearts to Baby Jesus.