Monday, December 01, 2014

I Will Come

They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!  Isaiah 2:4B-5

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.  Matthew 8:7-8

Lord, we are already seem so busy with everything else.  Now we have the added stress of the holiday season.  Parties at home or at work to plan and/or attend.  Gifts to buy and wrap and ship.  Houses to clean and get ready for guests.  Special meals to prepare.  Cookies to bake.  Travels to arrange.  Yet you, Lord, have other plans for us.  Come.  Let us walk (not run) through these holy days of preparation and waiting with you.  Come.  Let us walk (not run) through these 24 days of advent with you. Help let us allow the power of the most high to overshadow us and all the pop-up ads for Home Depot that threaten to derail our days of preparation. Amen.

Capernaum is a site for many healing scenes in the Gospels.  Jesus drove out the unclean spirit from one man.  He cured the fever afflicting Peter’s mother-in-law.  Today, we read of his curing the servant of the Roman centurion.  Not only that, but Jesus also offered the commentary that this foreigner, this belligerent soldier occupying the holy land, had greater faith than Jesus had found anywhere else among the so-called “chosen” people.  This military officer was already beating his swords into plowshares and his spears into pruning hooks. 

Of all the readings, why would these be chosen for our first week of Advent? 
Maybe as a reminder of the “reason” for the “season.”  Isaiah inspires us to “walk in the light of the Lord.”  Not in the light of the Best Buy sign or the Target logo or the Walmart parking lot.  The centurion reminds us that we are not in search of the best bargain – even though the Monday of the First Week of Advent is also called Cyber Monday by the merchant class.

Maybe this Gospel reading was chosen for the words spoken by Jesus about Himself.  “I will come.”  Not, let me check my Outlook Calendar.  Not, check with my executive officer staff about a site visit next month.  When the centurion approaches Jesus, there is no hesitation.  There is no fear that the centurion may be leading him into a trap.  There is only a positive, willing response to the request delivered by a man of power in the spirit of humility and obedience.  That is the kind of response the Lord is hoping that we will give to him.

Humility and obedience.  Maybe there is a better image for us to reflect upon this week and this season than the one sent around the world yesterday of Bartholomew I giving a blessing to Pope Francis and the Church of Rome.  If there is, I cannot think of what it would be.

As Fr. James Martin, SJ, recounted:

Pope Francis has done many amazing things during his visit to Turkey, among them, praying "in silent adoration" alongside the Grand Mufti of Istanbul in the Blue Mosque; meeting with the chief rabbi of Turkey; and speaking with young refugees from Syria, Iraq and other countries. But for me the most moving was his encounter with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians. (The two major branches of Christianity split in 1054 over questions about the papacy.) Francis and Bartholomew signed a joint declaration calling for a "constructive dialogue" with Islam based on "mutual respect and friendship," and reaffirming Francis's and Bartholomew's desire for Christian unity. But it was the extraordinary gesture captured in this photo which was perhaps the most powerful sign of Christian unity yet. After the Pope asked the Patriarch to "bless me and the Church of Rome," this was Bartholomew's response. (CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

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