Have we taken our eyes off of God?

“What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray” (Mt 18:12)?
Many of those Jesus asked and for us listening in or reading the Gospel today might share our opinion that the man leaving the ninety-nine to find the one would not be a wise choice. Jesus again appears to be turning the normal order of things upside down in painting a word picture of God’s folly. This parable clearly shows the abundant and extravagant love of his Father for each and every one of us. The act of this shepherd can appear not only unreasonable but unbelievable.
Yet, this is not the feeling to the one who is lost. This extravagant love is a relief. It is the love that we can only experience if we are willing to resist slipping into judgment and pride, as did the elder son who was not willing to forgive his brother who was lost but found. The father loved him with the same love, but he closed himself off from it.
What God wants is for us to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be fully alive, and he is willing to risk us going astray such that we can come to realize the emptiness in any pursuit that ultimately does not bring us closer to him. God does not wish for any one of us to be lost. He constantly coaxes, invites, and urges us to fulfill who he created us to be. He guides us along as a parent urging his child to walk. Yet, though he lovingly implores us along, we can be distracted, turn, crawl away, and go in a different direction.
Have we taken our eyes off of our Father? Have we crawled away from his invitation? No matter how far we believe we are from him, he has always been close, following, watching, ready for us to turn back to him. When we do turn back, he is there waiting for us, urging us to rise and walk into his open embrace.
May we remember this Advent that God is eternally present, for he loves us more than we can ever mess up, he loves us more than we can ever imagine, and he refuses to define us by our worst choices and moments. He has sent his Son to extend his hand out to us. Let us take his hand and let him lead us back into the loving embrace of our Father.

Photo: Taking a look up at dusk often centers me and reminds me to think of the things of heaven and God “who is closer to us than we are to ourselves” (St. Augustine).
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, December 10, 2019

“God never tires of forgiving us.” – Pope Francis

Have you ever locked yourself out of your house or car? Have you ever needed to get somewhere and were stuck in traffic? Have you ever needed to mail something at the post office and when you arrived the line was already out of the door? Have you been sick and not been able to get to a doctor? Have you or are you dealing with a chronic or debilitating health condition? Are you aware of a recurring sin, that you just can’t seem to get past?
If you have experienced any or many of the situations above, you may have some empathy for the man in today’s Gospel of Luke who is paralyzed. Word has come to him that Jesus of Nazareth is close by. He heard that Jesus has helped the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. Could he receive a healing? How though could he get to him? Somehow men came forward to bring the man, we don’t know if they were family, friends, or neighbors. In Mark’s account (cf. Mk 2:1-12) he wrote that there were four men. The key point is that they bothered to care, they made the time, carried him on a stretcher, and brought the man to Jesus.
When they arrived they could not find “a way to bring him in because of the crowds” (Lk 5:19). Unfortunately, “the crowds” could not be bothered to move, to adjust their positions, or to make a way for them to get through. We can imagine the man’s anguish. He had come this far, but would be able to get no closer. Maybe some of his bearers were getting frustrated with the lack of willingness of others to make way. Yet, one of the five, maybe even the man himself, was able to think outside of the box.
They maneuvered the man, still on the stretcher, up to the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down before Jesus. Jesus witnessing their faith said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven” (Lk 5:20). Before the man could even fully take in the wonderful gift of mercy he had received, the scribes and Pharisees challenged Jesus’ words, accusing him of blasphemy. Only God could forgive sins. Jesus not missing a beat doubled down: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he said to the one who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home” (Lk 5:23-24).
The man, who, with the aid of four others, met every obstacle placed before him to get to Jesus. Then he faced his last obstacle, the one that put him in this position in the first place, his sins. He was ready, willing, and able to face his sins and relinquish them in the healing words of Jesus. Just to be clear, not everyone who is dealing with a physical or chronic condition does so because of sin. This man had, for it was so deep in his being, and for how long we do not know but, he was paralyzed by them. We can beat ourselves up pretty bad, and be so unforgiving of others and ourselves, that sin often has debilitating effects.
The passage regarding the Healing of the Paralytic is a wonderful account to meditate upon. I invite you to read it through a couple of times. Who do we at the moment of our reading see ourselves to be in the story? Are we one of the four men that offer help to the paralyzed man, the many onlookers in the crowd who prevent access to Jesus, one of the scribes and Pharisees, or are we the man paralyzed by sin? Is there something that is preventing us from getting to Jesus, is there a recurring sin that we keep repeating, are we unwilling to forgive someone, are there particular attachments we cling to?
Let nothing prevent you from coming to Jesus. There may be those blocking access to him. You may have gone in the past to Confession and had a horrible experience with a priest who may have actually berated you, or the opposite. You may have had a sin that was totally discounted or brushed over. You may have even encountered an indifferent priest who appeared not to give you the time of day. Those are unfortunate experiences, hurtful, and inexcusable.
You may have had others say to you or you may have said to yourself, I do not need to go to a priest, I can just go to God. This is true you can, and a daily practice of examining your conscience and doing that is a wonderful spiritual discipline. I would encourage you to continue! Though for some sins we need the assistance of encountering Jesus in the sacraments. Also, a regular habit of participating in the healing sacrament of Reconciliation is another way to deepen our relationship with Jesus, to receive his forgiveness, guidance, and healing.
Come and encounter Jesus present in the sacrament of Reconciliation. The sacraments provide personal encounters with Christ. As the paralyzed man needed aid getting to Jesus, so do we. The priest is a minister of God’s mercy and grace and available so we can hear the words of Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven” and “I absolve you from your sins…” There is something about hearing those words that is freeing and healing and counters any mind noise that says we cannot be forgiven.
Pope Francis has said that, “God never tires of forgiving us.” Let us not tire of going to God to experience his love. Just as the man heard Jesus say he was forgiven and left praising God, so too may we come to the priest, who is in the person of Jesus, so that we may also encounter his forgiveness and mercy, leave healed, filled with joy, and praising God!
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If you happen to be in the Jupiter area, Wednesday, December 15, we will have priests available at 9:00 am to hear your confessions and also two communal penance services at 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Both services will be held in our chapel. There will be signs posted to direct you. St. Peter Catholic Church is located on 1701 Indian Creek Parkway, Jupiter, FL 33458. Our priests are also available for confession every Saturday from 3:00-4:00 in our chapel. If you are reading this from afar, access a parish near you this Advent. If you are not Catholic, you can still reach out to God and one another!
Photo: Pope Francis giving absolution to a young teen
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, December 8, 2021

May we embrace our humanity as Jesus did.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee… (Lk 3:1).
This may be an odd verse to focus on in Advent, or anytime when sharing a reflection, but there is a point to this historical piece of information that Luke presents to us in his Gospel today. The point is that Jesus, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, was born in time, and he was born in a place. The Gospels are not myths.
The Son of God came and dwelt among us as one of us. This means he experienced what we experience as human beings. He caught colds, he stubbed his toes, he was misunderstood, he felt sad, he cried, yet he also laughed and experienced the simple joys of food and drink, fellowship and conversation, as well as familial and religious celebrations.
Let us continue this Advent, as John the Baptist implores us, to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” In doing so, may we remember that Jesus did not run from his humanity, but embraced it. He understands what our challenges are and what we are going through in our daily lives. Jesus meets us where we are in our present condition and loves us as we are with understanding and compassion.
We can let go of compartmentalizing, allocating Jesus to only one hour a week, and instead invite Jesus into all aspects of our lives. As we walk with him and embrace our own humanity, we come to see his presence in all we do.
Jesus, please cleanse our hearts and minds, so as to reveal to us more clearly the choices that we make, and that which we bring into our lives that are false truths; those apparent goods, and substitutes that separate us from your Father. Help us to let them go so as to embrace that which is for our highest hope and good, that which is True, and Good, and Beautiful. Help us to experience oneness with you so that we may experience your joy in our lives and experiences with one another.

Photo: Not taking ourselves seriously in CA.
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, December 7, 2021

May we embrace our humanity as Jesus did.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee… (Lk 3:1).
This may be an odd verse to focus on in Advent, or anytime when sharing a reflection, but there is a point to this historical piece of information that Luke presents to us in his Gospel today. The point is that Jesus, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, was born in time, and he was born in a place. The Gospels are not myths.
The Son of God came and dwelt among us as one of us. This means he experienced what we experience as human beings. He caught colds, he stubbed his toes, he was misunderstood, he felt sad, he cried, yet he also laughed and experienced the simple joys of food and drink, fellowship and conversation, as well as familial and religious celebrations.
Let us continue this Advent, as John the Baptist implores us, to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” In doing so, may we remember that Jesus did not run from his humanity, but embraced it. He understands what our challenges are and what we are going through in our daily lives. Jesus meets us where we are in our present condition and loves us as we are with understanding and compassion.
We can let go of compartmentalizing, allocating Jesus to only one hour a week, and instead invite Jesus into all aspects of our lives. As we walk with him and embrace our own humanity, we come to see his presence in all we do.
Jesus, please cleanse our hearts and minds, so as to reveal to us more clearly the choices that we make, and that which we bring into our lives that are false truths; those apparent goods, and substitutes that separate us from your Father. Help us to let them go so as to embrace that which is for our highest hope and good, that which is True, and Good, and Beautiful. Help us to experience oneness with you so that we may experience your joy in our lives and experiences with one another.

Photo: Not taking ourselves seriously in CA.
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, December 7, 2021

“We are infinitely loved.” And that is good news to share!

Jesus sent out these twelve (Mt 10:5).
Jesus sent out his Apostles to minister in his name and share the Gospel as he did, declaring that the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our faith tradition is one of evangelizing, sharing the Good News. That means that first and foremost we need to be people of joy. We may share the most wonderful words about our faith, but if they are not backed up by a life of radiating joy, then our words will have little if any impact.
This does not mean that we are happy and buoyant every second of the day, it does not mean that we will not experience hardship, sorrow, and loss. But what it does mean is that we are not defined by our suffering but by our hope as we experience each of our adversities, conflicts, and challenges.
What defines us is the joy of knowing that we are not alone in our trials. Jesus experienced the darkness of the human condition, not just his suffering on the cross, but in going all the way down into experiencing death. Yet, through the binding force of the love of the Holy Spirit, he was drawn back to life and conquered death not only for himself but for us all.
This is good news to share. How we live our lives each day and interact with others may be the only Bible that someone else will ever read. “Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.” – Pope Francis from his apostolic exhortation, Joy of the Gospel, line 6.

Photo: Teaching is one of my greatest joys! Happy bday Ella!!!
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, December 4,2021

Jesus, send us your light that we may see.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is followed by two blind men asking him to heal them. They continued to follow even after Jesus entered the house. When they had done so, Jesus turned and said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this” (Mt 9:28)? The pair said in unison that they did. Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith” ((Mt 9:29). Both men were healed.
Though the pair were blind physically, they had faith that Jesus was the Son of David. This term was a common title for the Messiah. The two blind men believed that Jesus was who he said he was and then collaborated in their healing, for as Jesus touched their eyes, they had faith and believed that Jesus could heal them and they were healed.
Though we may have eyes to see and ears to hear, do we see and hear with the faith of the two blind men in today’s Gospel? Jesus came into the world as the visible reality and embodiment of God’s Love. Jesus calls us to be conformed to this same love. No easy task, for more often than not, we are blind and deaf to this gift.
The saints are those who followed through the narrow gate as did the two blind men. They encountered Jesus, had faith in him and believed. Will we follow the same path? Do we believe that Jesus is truly who he said he is, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity who became one with us so that we can become one with him? Let us pray together:
Jesus, this Advent, I choose to walk on your path of love. Free me from my blindness such that I may experience the grace of your Father, so to know the safety and security of your presence. I believe and have faith that you will provide for my every need and will be present through my pain and struggles, the everyday moments, as well as my joys and successes. Expand my heart and mind that I may more fully experience your love so as to have the courage to surrender the false self of my ego, prejudices, pride, and indifference. Help me to begin anew in small ways to love others as you love me, recognizing that your love is not a feeling or an emotion, but a conscious act of the will. As I participate in your life and love, please help me to be more present to those people I encounter and give me the courage to will their good, without conditions and without counting the cost.

Photo from pexels.com
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, December 3, 2021

Are we playing our part in God’s theodrama?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
I have often paraphrased one of my favorite quotes from St. Irenaeus, that Jesus came to be one with us so that we can be one with him. In his becoming one with us in our humanity, he invites everyone, no one is excluded, to participate in his divinity. Yet if everyone is invited, how can Jesus say that not everyone will enter the Kingdom of heaven?”
The answer to that question is in the line that follows. The one who will enter heaven is, “the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” If this verse does not help, then it might be helpful to understand a little about heaven, as best as we can, as the mere mortal, finite beings that we are.
Heaven is not so much a place but a state of being in relation to God. Heaven is the state of being in which we are privileged to share communion and a deeper intimacy with God for all eternity. We will still not know everything about God because God is infinite and we will still be finite even in heaven. God is without limit, we are limited. We will never exhaust our relationship, never get bored with God.
Maybe a more three dimensional, an earthly example may be of help. If we were invited to play a sport, an instrument, or to act in a play, with the end goal being that we would play in the upcoming game, concert, or performance, we might feel pretty excited about the offer. We tell the coach, conductor, or director “That’s great news!” Yet, in the days that follow, we do not attend any of the practices, we do not practice the skills required to play the position, instrument, or role and we don’t return any of the follow-up invitations by phone, email, or text. The day of the big game, concert, or performance comes, we gather our self together and head on over to the arena or hall. We arrive to see the coach, conductor, or director but are denied entrance. We might say, “I don’t understand, you invited us to play!” The reply is, “Not everyone who says to me coach, coach (conductor, conductor, or director, director) is ready and prepared.”
Jesus indeed invites us to play a part in, as the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar termed it, God’s theodrama, everyone. Some say yes and some say no. The no comes from wanting to produce, write, direct, and star in their own ego drama. Some say yes, and then don’t do anything, some say yes and do some things, some say yes and dive in. Most of us take a few steps forward and a step or two back. Just like preparing to play in the big game or perform in the big concert, or play, we need to be committed, disciplined, and persistent with our faith life. Unlike a missed opportunity to participate in a game or performance, that we can correct and make another attempt down the road, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven.
The above analogy does not imply in any way that we earn our way into heaven, or we can do so on our own effort and will power. The bottom line is that Jesus gave his life for all of us and through his grace, we have been saved. This is a free gift. Yet, we have to be willing to receive and open the gift. Our time here on earth is the time we are given to work out our salvation, to put into practice his teachings, and be about building a relationship with Jesus, being conformed to him, so that we can come to know his Father as he does and help others to open their gift as well and invite them to play their part.
If we want to know God’s will, we need to come to know God. Advent is a time of preparation, to open to spend more time with God so we can come to know him and his will. Jesus helps us to recognize when we are off the target in our attempt to do so. He also invites us to reorient ourselves such that we allow our minds and hearts to be expanded by his love.
This happens when we are quiet and still, through prayer, spending time meditating upon his word, spending time in worship and fellowship. In doing so, we will be more open and willing to be led by the Holy Spirit and step out of our comfort zones and reach out to others in an act of service for another’s sake and not just for our own. We are here not only to actualize the grace we have been given for our salvation, but we are also here to help others to do the same.
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Photo: Tapestry hanging in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA. Some of the saints who practiced their part in God’s theodrama and are now with God in heaven.
Link for the Mass reading for Thursday, December 5, 2019

May we surrender, serve, and trust that Jesus will provide.

“Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them” (Mt 15:29-30).
There is a key yet subtle point before Jesus began to heal that might be missed. Before great crowds came to him, Jesus “went up on the mountain, and sat down there.” This is no insignificant sentence. The posture of sitting on the mountain would have been recognized right away by the people of Jesus’ time. This was the posture of the teacher and sitting on the mountain a reference to Moses. Prior to the healing in this setting, as he did throughout the Gospels, Jesus most likely taught about the reign of God. In fact, time and again, Jesus’ “works of healing took place in this context of his preaching of the kingdom of God” (Lohfink 2014, 58).
A great multitude of people came to Jesus to hear his message and also brought with them a wide range of needs. Jesus made himself available, restored, and healed those who were brought to him. He encountered them as they were in their present condition. There is no record in this Gospel account that Jesus asked for any identification, that he discussed their belief system before healing them, nor did he ask if they were Jewish or Gentile, and nowhere in this account did Jesus deny anyone who came to him. The response of those to being healed and restored was that “they glorified the God of Israel“. This is because, “where God is master, there is salvation and healing” (Lohfink 2014, 62).
The recorded accounts of mass healings in today’s Gospel are but a foretaste of the heavenly realm of eternal communion with the Father. Jesus is the kingdom of heaven at hand, for as St Irenaeus wrote, “Jesus opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.” Jesus though was not done. The whole process took some time, which is an understatement, and as people were getting ready to leave, Jesus showed compassion yet again. He sought the assistance of the disciples because he did not want to send the people away hungry.
The disciples, of course, are taken aback because of the reality of the undertaking Jesus proposed. Jesus asked what they had with them and they shared just some bread and fish. Jesus took “the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full” (Mt 15:36-37).
This Advent let us make an extra effort to surrender our will to God. May we pray with and meditate on the Gospels such that they become a living teaching that is relevant in our lives, that moves us to serve those in need as Jesus did. Our service and giving to another is not limited to religion, race, gender, creed, or political affiliation. What matters is that we are willing to see in each person before us a human being with dignity and worth and provide in whatever manner of need is present.
Neither are we to be dismayed with how little we believe we might have to give. We offer what we do have to Jesus in solidarity for his purpose, as did the disciples with the seven loaves and fish, and in so doing, the Holy Spirit will work through us to provide those we serve with an abundance of grace, mercy, love, and healing.
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Painting: The Multiplication of the Loaves by Giovanni Lanfranco between 1620-1623
Lohfink, Gerhard. No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.
Mass readings for Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Jesus calls, how do we answer?

He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).
Today’s Gospel account recalls Jesus’ call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. An interesting contextual point is that Jesus was the one doing the calling. Spiritual teachers were common during the time of Jesus within and without of Judaism. What was more common in those accounts was that the disciples came to the master. It was a rarer case that the master would search out and call his followers.
Another interesting point is that Jesus met the brothers in the midst of their everyday activities of fishing, in the midst of their work. The encounter with Jesus was not on some isolated mountain top, it was not at a revival, nor at the temple or synagogue. Jesus met them in the midst of Simon and Andrew casting their nets and James and John mending their father’s nets.
The third point from this short account is that Jesus immediately followed his invitation to Simon and Andrew with the insistence that they will be fishers of people. They are not entering their new apprenticeship with Jesus having any false notion that they will wait for others to come to them. They will travel out of their comfort zones. They were called to leave their current way of life, financial security, and to trust in Jesus as they learned about and shared the Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand.
The three points above apply directly to us as well. Jesus seeks us out and invites us to join him. Are we willing to receive this invitation and say yes as Simon, Andrew, James, and John had done. Jesus meets us in our everyday moments, in our workplaces, among our interactions with family and friends, in our class and dorm rooms, as well as in our activities and leisure. He meets us in our conflicts, struggles, suffering, as well as our joys, success, and our moments of wonder. Jesus also encounters us during our unpreparedness for interruptions, in our times of prayer, and worship.
The very desire to pray does not actually begin with us. It is the beginning of our awareness of Jesus’ call to follow him. When we take the time to pray we slow down and become more aware of his presence so that when we leave our times of prayer and worship, we will be more able to see him in the midst of our daily activities.
Finally, Jesus calls us to share what we have experienced and learned from our encounter with him. No matter how small. We will make mistakes, we will not be perfect, but as we put into practice his teachings, we will learn and grow as his disciples. Remember who he called? Peter, Andrew, James, and John. There are four Gospels full of accounts of their false starts, gaffes, and “Oops”. We grow and learn by doing. As we crawl, we will soon learn to walk, as we walk we will soon learn to run, and as we run, we will soon learn to fly!
Jesus calls us to participate in his life and to put his teachings into practice. This is a gift of transformation we are invited to experience. As we begin or continue this journey with the Lord, we are to share our faith by accompanying those in our realm of influence. This happens in the our normal interactions, remembering first and foremost to do so in a way that respects the dignity of each person we encounter. We are to resist any desire to impose and instead authentically bear witness to our practice and engage in respectful dialogue.
Nicholas Black Elk (ca. 1866-1950) embodied this gift of dialogue. The Oglala Lakota, holy man, best known from John Neihardt’s work, Black Elk Speaks, like St. Andrew whose feast day we celebrate today, said yes to Jesus’ call and was baptized a Catholic in 1904. He continued to practice his Lakota ways while also becoming an effective lay catechist. Under his guidance, over 400 people came to believe in Jesus.
He was instrumental in his role of not only teaching the Catholic faith but nurturing and caring for the faithful of St. Agnes Catholic Church in between the monthly visits of the priest. In May of 2021, Pope Francis promulgated the formal role of the lay catechist. Nicholas Black Elk certainly modeled this position effectively, and if canonized would be an inspiring patron saint of catechists.
On June 25, 2019, the diocesan phase of the Cause for Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk was finalized with a Mass at St. Agnes in Manderson, SD. The next step in the process of his canonization will be a thorough investigation to examine if he lived a life of heroic virtue and if found to be so, would be given the title of “Venerable.” May we also answer the unique call Jesus invites us to partake in.
St Andrew, pray for us. Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, pray for us.

Photo: Source Marquette University Catholic Mission Archives. Nicholas Black Elk catechizing with the “Two Roads Map” at the cabin of Broken Nose, Pine Ridge Reservation.
Recent article in NCR updating Nicholas Black Elk’s cause for canonization
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The steps we can take to begin our practice of Advent.

“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” (Mt 8:10-13).
The one to whom Jesus is referring to is a Roman centurion who approached Jesus seeking healing for his servant. I imagine that Jesus was not only amazed by the man’s humility, in recognizing his sinfulness and that he believed that Jesus could heal from a distance with simply his word, but also that he was aware of the need and suffering of his slave and willingness to do something about it. This Roman centurion, an occupying presence in Israel, clearly embodied the teachings of Jesus! It is from the centurion’s words that we get the words that we speak before receiving Jesus in the Eucharist during each Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
God chose the people of Israel not for themselves alone, but that they would be a light to all peoples. As Isaiah said, all nations shall stream toward mount Zion and “from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (see Isaiah 2:1-5). Jesus echoes Isaiah’s prophetic words as is recorded in today’s Gospel: “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” (Mt 8:11). The centurion’s act of faith is the beginning movement, like a drop of water that is the beginning of a majestic waterfall.
The first point we can learn from the centurion is that he was aware that his slave was in need. A slave held no dignity, and yet, he was not invisible to the centurion. Nor was the centurion indifferent to his suffering and pain. We also need to be aware of those in our midst who are in need and resist the temptation to walk around, over, or by others and instead be willing to embrace the gift of the dignity present in each one of us.
Second, like the centurion, we need to embrace humility and acknowledge our own sinfulness, and when we do so, we are better able to see the needs of others. None of us are perfect. No one person is above any other. We all have gifts as well as shortcomings. We need each other because we complement one another and we are stronger together than apart.
Third, we cannot stand on our own. The centurion recognized his limitations. He acknowledged that he needed help. He needed Jesus. As do we. We cannot accomplish our salvation on our own merit or will power. We need a savior, for apart from Jesus, who we prepare to encounter this Advent season, we can do nothing, but with Jesus all things are possible.
Jesus is the Truth and the Fulfillment that we seek. He has sent out a universal invitation of communion for all, to Israel first and then to those from east and west, north and south. The Roman centurion modeled our response to Jesus’ presence when he recognized his own sinfulness and acknowledged it before Jesus. He was also aware of and sought healing for his slave. The centurion had faith and hope that Jesus could and would provide healing with just his word.
May we follow his example this Advent as we take time to examine our conscience, have the humility to confess our sins, to acknowledge that we need help from Jesus and others. May we be willing to seek forgiveness and be willing to forgive. May we be willing to resist the temptation to embrace fear and close ourselves off and be indifferent to the plight and needs of others, but instead assume a posture of openness to the gift of the rich diversity of our humanity.
We have so much to offer one another when we are willing to work together instead of apart from or against one another. May we who have received the forgiveness and grace of Jesus and felt the embrace of his love, reach out to provide hope and to empowerment for those who have been dehumanized, kept apart, or labeled “other.”
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Painting: Sebastiano Ricci – Christ Heals the Centurion’s Servant, 1726-1729
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, December 2, 2019