The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
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."
In the weekdays of Advent we read the sweeping vision's of Isaiah about a future of universal peace. He cherishes the hope that all nations and races will live together harmoniously and join in worshiping the true and only God. This future will draw us beyond all narrow racial or national boundaries so that all of humanity becomes one family of faith and love. Are we willing to open our doors and welcome all these people, so different from ourselves?
In the Gospel, Jesus is invited to the home of a Roman centurion – a soldier whose job is to represent a foreign, oppressive power – and he accepts! When the Roman who hesitates, feeling unworthy to have this famous Rabbi present in his home, Jesus is amazed at such genuine humility, and notes the centurion's care for his slave, who would have been from some defeated nation. The centurion bows before his distinguished Jewish visitor, for the sake of his slave!
Jesus praises this outsider as a genuine man, a spiritual descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He still advises us to look in unlikely places and people to learn to be his true followers today. He tells us too, "I have never found this much faith" in your midst. During Advent can we too learn from outsiders how to live worthily in God's holy presence? From unexpected sources we can learn so much.
The centurion's request in today's gospel is very familiar to us. Before Holy Communion we repeat it almost word for word. It contains two main points: recognising his own unworthiness to have the Lord enter his home, and a total trust in the power of Christ's word.
This centurion's attitude is worth pondering during Advent. We recognise our limitations, aware of our needs and longing for a fuller presence of the Lord in our lives. We also share his great trust that Jesus can help us, convinced that his word can heal and renew us, recreate and refashion us. Out of our poverty we pray with trust, "Come Lord Jesus."