As we begin Church’s new liturgical year with the season of Advent, Fr Paul notes the change to the colour purple in the background. Purple is the colour of preparation, which we will see it over the next few weeks as we prepare for Christmas. Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof just give the word and my servant shall be healed. It is these words that astonish Jesus, that we use ourselves, again and again, at each Mass – ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof just say the word and my soul shall be healed’.
Today Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Matthew (8:5-11) in which a centurion, who comes to Jesus seeking help for his sick servant, says “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed”. Fr Paul says, this Gospel reading makes an important statement as we begin this season of Advent: salvation is not just for the Chosen People, children of Abraham, but salvation is for all people, for all nations, who are prepared (like this centurion) to go to the Lord. The centurion would probably not have been a Jew. He might have been a Roman. He, he might have been from some other nation. He knows the kind of authority he has over his troops and his servants, but he also knows that that authority has its limits. Obviously, he has also learned to respect and reverence other values. In Capernaum, the lakeside town where Jesus seems to have taken up residence when he was hounded out of Nazareth, the centurion was the first gentile to recognize Jesus and submit his own military authority to a higher authority; to Jesus. This is an encouraging message; salvation is offered to all. Yet the citizens of Capernaum were no doubt waiting with confidence for salvation too, but they failed to take it when it came. Matthew, who is a Jew, is well aware of the position and promises of Israel, and yet it is Matthew who has no hesitation in telling us that of all the people in Israel it is the centurion who has the greatest faith. Fr Paul says one of the things that has always struck him about the centurion are the words he speaks. They are the same words we use at each and every mass we celebrate just prior to receiving Holy Communion –