Fr Paul notes the change from the green liturgical colour of Ordinary time to the purple of Advent as we prepare for the coming Christmas season. He reads today’s Gospel from Matthew (8: 5-11), in which the Centurion asks Jesus to come and heal his servant, who is paralysed and in great pain.
As we read today from Matthew’s Gospel, Fr Paul says it makes an important statement as we begin Advent: Salvation is not just for the chosen people but it is for all people, who are prepared to go to the Lord, just as the Centurion has done in this Gospel. The Centurion is not a Jew. He could be Roman, or he could be from some other conquered nation, but he has an understanding of authority. He has authority over his troops and his servants, but he is also aware that this authority has limits. It has taught him respect and reverence. This Centurion is the first Gentile to recognise Jesus and as we hear in the Gospel, he submits his own military authority to a higher authority, seeking out Jesus for the healing of his servant.
Jesus is astonished at the faith of this Centurion. He has not seen this type of faith in Israel and he is making the point that there are many in Israel who are missing out on what Jesus has to offer.
As our Advent season begins, Fr Paul says there are two things we should reflect on. Firstly, the words of the Centurion. They are beautiful words that we, ourselves, are asked to repeat just before Communion each time we attend Mass… ‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof but give the word and my servant will be cured’ (‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof but give the word and my soul will be healed’). Each time we receive Communion we are echoing the faith of the Centurion – the faith that astonished Jesus.
The second thing this Gospel is encouraging in us is to not miss out like those in Israel were doing. Fr Paul says, Advent is a time to draw us closer to Christ so let us not miss out on any of the opportunities we may have to continue to improve and restore our relationship with Jesus.