Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s readings talk about us as the people of God, ought to go and seek the Lord, to find Him and follow His ways. Thus, we are urged to live according to what the Lord had taught us, and there are many ways to do this. But I would like to bring to your attention, our Gospel of today, which is about the faith of an army centurion or captain, whose faith in Jesus was so great that it was truly amazing for him to exhibit such a faith and Jesus praised him for such faith.
It is in fact also the kind of faith which all of us should have, a faith that is strong, genuine and sincere, and yet at the same time, it is humble, unassuming and also undeterred. What the centurion did was exactly what we always say to the Lord at the celebration of the Holy Mass, every time the priest shows us the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ after the singing of the Agnus Dei. Remember the words? ‘I am not worthy, that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.’
These words are almost a direct representation from the words of the centurion, who said to Jesus, that he was unworthy to have Jesus to come to his house, sinful as he was, and he asked only that for the Lord to give the word, and then his servant shall be healed, by the power of Jesus. That is a true, sincere and genuine faith, the kind which our Lord seeks from all of us.
It is important then that we understand the circumstances, the background and the reality behind the story of the Gospel today. Judea at that time was under the rule of the descendants of king Herod the Great, but in reality their role and power was mostly just honorary. The real power and authority lie with the Romans. The military at the time was also dominated by the Romans, with some local and Temple guards, but the army were mostly Roman, the legions stationed in Judea as a garrison army.
Therefore, the army centurion was likely not a Jew in origin, and even most likely might have been a Roman, and to the Jews, the Romans, as with the other Gentiles or the non-Jewish people were considered pagan, unclean and unworthy of God. And the army centurion was likely fully aware of this fact. Thus, even though he was truly desperate to have his servant healed and brought from the brink of death, he was aware that inviting Jesus to his house might have dire implication for himself, and even more so, for Jesus.
He likely did not want Jesus to be harassed and badmouthed by the Pharisees and the Temple authorities for associating with one such as himself. These people had already made it difficult for the Lord by slandering Him for His associations with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the Gentiles and many other people, whom the Pharisees and the Temple authorities deemed to be sinners and unworthy of salvation.
But did Jesus care about what they thought of Him? No, not at all! That is because He is solely concerned about the salvation of the souls of mankind, of sinners who has no one else to turn to but God. This concern is what made our Lord to go out and seek the sinners and the condemned, in order to bring them back from the precipice of darkness and damnation, and to return them into the light and the grace of God.
The army centurion was fully aware of his unworthiness, and he came forth to beg the Lord’s love and mercy, and with complete and full trust in the Lord, he knew that, while he was unworthy to receive the Lord in his own house, but whatever the Lord would do for his sake, would truly come true. This is the kind of great faith which the army centurion had, and which the Pharisees and the Temple authorities did not have.
Do we all remember about the doubting disciple, Thomas, who doubted the resurrection of Christ? Who refused to believe until the Lord Himself showed Himself to him? The same therefore occurred for the Pharisees, the Temple authorities, and to be frank, with many if not most of us. We want physical and visual evidence when we want to believe in something, and if we are not shown what we want to see, then we will not believe.
Yet, we have to notice that the army centurion did not even ask for Jesus to come and heal his servant physically and directly, so that he might see and believe. No, in fact he had already believed even not by seeing, and by his faith and belief in Jesus, he put his trust completely in God, and what he asked for was fulfilled completely. The Pharisees on the other hand, they had frequently seen and witnessed what Jesus had done throughout His ministry, in their futile attempts to discredit and destroy Him in their jealousy. And indeed, they failed to see the truth of God’s works in Jesus and they did not have the faith.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a choice today, and on this season of Advent, there is indeed no better time to do so, that is to reflect on our own faith and on our own life. Have we been faithful in the way of the Pharisees and the Temple authorities? Is our faith like theirs, that is proud, unbending, arrogant and self-serving? Do we recognise the Lord when He comes again? Or are we too caught up in our own self-preserving attitudes, pride, jealousy and greed that we fail to recognise Him?
Certainly, we want to avoid this. And the way to truly live our lives is to be like the army centurion. Let us truly mean what we always say every time at the Mass, ‘I am not worthy, not worthy’, and not worthy we are indeed of the Lord, for we have sinned before God. Far less worthy we are indeed to even receive Him into ourselves. We have to realise this and be humble, just as the army centurion was, he who had admitted publicly that he was not worthy for Christ to come to his house and heal his servant.
And yet, our Lord Jesus, out of His great and infinite love for us, desires us to be reconciled to Himself, and He has the power and authority to heal us and make us whole, just as He had healed the servant of the army centurion. All that we need to do, is just ask, like the army centurion. He asked in great humility, sincere devotion and genuine faith, and he received his reward.
The Lord had already said to us, that we need to only ask, and we shall receive, and we need to only knock at the door, and the door shall be opened for us. Thus, this Advent season, let us use the opportunity given to us, to respond to God calling deep in our hearts, for us to repent and change our ways, and for us to walk in His ways and follow Him once again. Let us put our complete trust in Lord like the centurion, who have strong and genuine faith, without the need for doubt or proof. Do not be like the Pharisees, who have seen plenty, and yet refused to believe.
May Almighty God be with us all, and guide us all this Advent, that He may bring us all ever closer to His salvation and eternal glory, by making our faith more and more like the faith of the centurion. May we grow stronger and deeper in our humility and in our love for God. Doubt no more but believe! And let us prepare for the Lord who will come again to claim us all His people and bring us into His eternal kingdom. God bless us all. Amen.
First Reading :
Gospel Reading :