Today’s Advent Reading:
USCCB – November 28th
As Jesus enters Capernaum in today’s Gospel reading, a centurion approaches Him, asking for healing for a paralyzed servant. But when Jesus offers to come to his home, he asks Jesus to instead heal the servant from afar, because the centurion believes he is “not worthy to have [Jesus] enter under [his] roof” (Mt. 5:8). Jesus respects his wishes, and praises him for his amazing faith, which He says is greater than that of anyone else He has found in Israel.
This is enormously high praise, and it leaves me wondering what exactly about the centurion’s words betrays a faith able to amaze even Jesus. Is it his confidence in Jesus’s ability to heal from afar, with his word rather than his touch? Is it his unwavering belief in Jesus’s authority over human sickness? Or perhaps it is his first statement, that he is unworthy to have Jesus enter his home. I don’t pretend to know the answer, and it is likely a combination of the three, but I think there is something interesting to note in the way Jesus responds.
Before healing the servant, Jesus takes the opportunity to tell the centurion that “many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:11). I take this as a response to the centurion’s statement about unworthiness; it is a proclamation that God’s banquet hall is open to all. When the centurion tells Christ that he believes his home to be unworthy of Christ, Christ tells the centurion that He believes the centurion to be worthy of His own home. It is fitting that the psalm for today takes up the responsorial refrain: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” We ought to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ’s home is our home.
But what is most humbling to me about this passage is Christ’s own display of love and humility toward the centurion. Because, had the centurion not prevented Him, Christ would have gone into his home with no mention of unworthiness. And this, I believe, encapsulates much of what Advent is about. Because even though we are unworthy, we celebrate in Advent Christ’s gracious arrival in our own home. With no mention of unworthiness, Christ came down from His heavenly home into our broken, sinful, and utterly painful world in order to heal and restore us. And He didn’t stop there; He even took upon Himself our most intimate and unworthy home—human flesh—in order to demonstrate the inescapable and unrelenting nature of His love. And finally, He invites us, at His second coming, to follow Him into His own home, because to Christ, no one is unworthy of the cost of redemption.
Advent is a time of unique reflection because even as we relive the anticipation of Christ’s first coming, we remain, as always, awaiting His second coming with bated breath. Today, let us humbly remember our unworthiness, and in faith reflect on the Christ who loved us anyway—enough to enter our home, and to invite us into his own.
Obasi Shaw ’17 is a senior in Pforzheimer House and Managing Editor of the Ichthus.