Salvation Has Come For All Persons
Today’s message speaks of universal salvation. Isaiah preaches that all are called to believe in God, to worship him, to live according to God’s plans and laws, and to enjoy his peace. Jerusalem stands here for God’s believing people. The centurion’s faith is remarkable. He is symbolic of the Gentiles who will be called, for the kingdom is open to all, without any privilege of race or culture. With Christ, salvation has become available to anyone of good will.
1 Reading: Isaiah 4:2-6
On that day, The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory, and the fruit of the earth will be honour and splendour for the survivors of Israel. He who remains in Zion and he who is left in Jerusalem Will be called holy: every one marked down for life in Jerusalem. When the LORD washes away the filth of the daughters of Zion, And purges Jerusalem’s blood from her midst with a blast of searing judgment, Then will the LORD create, over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her place of assembly, A smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night. For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.
Responsorial Psalm: 122:1-2, 3-4B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem. R.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD. R.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David. R.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings. R.
Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good. R.
Alleluia: Psalm 80:4
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Matthew 8:5-11
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, 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.”
Today’s readings, coming at the opening of the Advent season, speak of a future of peace and serenity, an idea that figures prominently in Hebrew thought. For Isaiah, destruction and devastation are not final; when tragedy has ended, a faithful remnant will remain. In a word, God’s saving plan will not be subverted by human wrongdoing. As the place of God’s real presence among his people, Jerusalem is singularly sacred. On Mount Zion, the presence of Yahweh will again shine forth.
In today’s psalm, it is toward this sacred mount that the people move in solemn procession.
At the same time, today’s Gospel moves us away from too narrow a vision. The faith in a revealing God is not the exclusive possession of a single people. In Jesus it becomes available to the world. A Roman centurion, faced with the likely death of a servant boy, turns to Christ and asks for help even though he understands the prohibition against a Jew visiting a pagan home. Yet the centurion’s recognition of the person Jesus is remarkable and evokes one of Jesus’ most striking compliments. The child is cured. There are no ethnic or social boundaries for the new reign of God.
Today’s readings carry us from the church to the marketplace. Zion was sacred as the place of God’s presence. Jesus carries God into the everyday world of people with their worries and cares. He removes the anxiety of a foreign military man and brings health to a troubled servant. Our life has a similar rhythm. We need our quiet time in church, but we also cannot avoid the unexpected phone call from a person who needs our help or support. In fact, that is precisely where Christ centers his first commandment—in God and neighbour.
“Many will come from east and west and eat with us at the table of the kingdom.” This is happening much in our day. Are we ready to respect and welcome them as equals with us before God? May Almighty God bless you and them, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!