Today's gospel (Matthew 8:5-11) reveals a three fold context for the prayer of humble access which we pray before receiving Christ at each Mass. 'Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."
The centurion wants his servant to be healed, and approaches Jesus. Jesus replies, "I will come and cure him." The Centurion demurs, saying that he is not worthy that the Lord should visit his home. Truly, this was the case because in Palestinian society the Roman centurion would never expect a pious Jewish teacher to risk defilement by visiting his residence. The Centurion approachs Christ with humility. He humbly recognizies his shortcomings and confesses them publicly, an unheard-of act for a Roman centurion in the midst of a conquered people.
However, the Centurion goes a step further, recognizing the power and authority of God present in Jesus. "You have the authority, the blessing of God," he proclaims, "to do this merciful act. It's all about You, Jesus." The Centurion is a man who approaches God with faith. The Centurion recognizes that God does what He wills, and His will is that people be whole and complete. What a great way to wait for Jesus.... humbly, but with confidence in God's great ability to bring good out of ill.
The last ingredient is also important. The Centurion recognizes the importance of community in the healing process. Without another to plead for him, to love him, to bring him to Jesus, the Centurion's servant would be lost. The Centurion's public appeal reflects an implicit recognition of the important role community plays in the healing process. The Centruion could have gone to Jesus privately, or sent someone else to ask for help for his servant. But, noooooo. The centurion came himself, and he came in the presence of others on behalf of another. And Jesus rewarded that brave commitment. If we are going to be healed.,we are to be healed with others.
This Advent we come to God in three ways:
1. humbly confessing our sins with humility,
2. acknowledging God's power with faith and
3. knowing that we are part of a larger faith community with one another.
There, as my friend Will likes to say, "none of us will be saved without the others."
Lord, let us see your kindness,
and grant us your salvation.