When he 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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
The words of the centurion in today’s Gospel are words we repeat each Mass during the Eucharistic prayer. We acknowledge our unworthiness before God right before we are invited to gather around God’s table and receive the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. This invitation is twofold. We are invited to receive the Body of Christ, present as the Eucharist, and at the same time to deepen our membership in the Body of Christ, the Church.
After the centurion’s profession of faith in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that people will come from all over to be part of the banquet of heaven. One of the things I love most about the Catholic Church is that it is simultaneously universal and diverse. I can go into a Catholic Church anywhere in the world and understand what’s happening at Mass, even if I don’t speak the language. At the same time, the churches just a few miles from my own parish have distinct and beautiful rituals celebrating the culture of the community. As Fr. Andrew Greeley said, “Catholicism means, ‘Here comes everyone.’”
As we begin this Advent season, what opportunity is there for you to welcome someone to the table? How can we reach across differences to unite in our faith in Christ?
Lord Jesus, you call us from wherever we are to join you at your table. Help us to come together as brothers and sisters to build up your kingdom on earth, so that we can join you in your kingdom in heaven. We pray this in your name. Amen.