04Dec 04 December 2017. Monday of Advent, Week 1

St John Damascene, priest & doctor of the Church (opt mem)

1st Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5

Swords will be beaten into ploughshares

Thus says the Lord: “On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.”

Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.”

Gospel: Matthew 8:5-11

Jesus heals the centurion’s servant and welcomes foreigners

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”

When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”


The way to a better future

Throughout Advent the weekday readings present Isaiah’s vision of universal peace. He cherishes the hope that all nations and races will gather harmoniously to worship the true God. This Advent vision sweeps far beyond our narrow boundaries so that all can come streaming to the Lord’s temple. Are we Catholics opening our doors and welcoming people, so different from ourselves?

A Roman centurion – an officer representing a foreign, oppressive power – invites Jesus to his home and he accepts! When the centurion hesitates, feeling unworthy to have this holy man under his roof, Jesus commends the man’s lively faith. The centurion bows before Jesus for the sake of his slave; and in return is praised as a man of integrity, a spiritual descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Perhaps we should reevaluate some of our ideas in order to follow the mind of Christ more closely. During Advent can we learn from outsiders how to live better in God’s holy presence? From unexpected sources we can learn so much.

The centurion’s prayer

The prayer of the centurion in today’s gospel is familiar because before receiving Holy Communion we repeat it almost word for word. He expresses two beliefs: he sees his own unworthiness to have the Lord come to his home, and he shows tremendous trust in the Lord’s word. These convictions are what Jesus praises as a faith greater than any he has found in Israel.

The centurion’s outlook is a guideline for Advent. We begin Advent aware of our own unworthiness, aware of our need and our longing for a fuller coming of the Lord into our lives. We also come to it trusting that the Lord wants to respond to our need and longing, with a conviction the word of the Lord can heal and renew us, recreate and refashion us. Out of our poverty we pray with great confidence, “Come Lord Jesus.” [MH]

Saint John Damascene, doctor of the Church

John of Damascus (675-749) was a Syrian monk and priest, born in Damascus, who died in Mar Saba monastery, near Jerusalem. A polymath whose studies included law, theology, philosophy and music, before being ordained he served as administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus. A gifted preacher who was called Chrysorrhoas –“pouring out gold” or eloquent one. He wrote treatises and composed hymns promoting the Christian faith. This “last of the Fathers”of the Eastern church is best known for his strong defense of icons against the iconoclast movement.

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