Memory of the Poor

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 8, 5-11

When he went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him.

'Sir,' he said, 'my servant is lying at home paralysed and in great pain.'

Jesus said to him, 'I will come myself and cure him.'

The centurion replied, 'Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured.

For I am under authority myself and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man, "Go," and he goes; to another, "Come here," and he comes; to my servant, "Do this," and he does it.'

When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, 'In truth I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found faith as great as this.

And I tell you that many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of Heaven;


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel passage for this first Monday of Advent presents us with a Roman centurion who approaches Jesus to ask for his servant to be healed. We can say that this centurion, who leaves his house to find Jesus and ask for healing, is truly the man of Advent, that is, a person who is not resigned to evil but waits for healing, a person who hopes that someone can help him. Let us imitate him and let us too go towards the Lord in order to be saved. We are similar to him in many things. The centurion is a grown man, and he does not share the faith of Israel. Moreover, he is a military, probably an official from the small army of Herod Antipas. All of these reasons should keep him from turning to a Jewish teacher and asking for help. But his servant is sick. His worry for his servant - it is a beautiful attitude - pushes him to go out to find Jesus. He does not really know how to speak to the young prophet, but he intuitively understands that all he has to do is put a little of his heart in those good hands and his request will be granted. Jesus reads in the centurion’s heart and, with the generosity of someone who knows how to be moved, goes beyond the centurion’s request, saying that he will go to his house to heal his servant. At this point, which one of us would not take advantage of such great generosity? But the centurion only becomes more embarrassed. He knows he is speaking to a prophet who comes from God and immediately understands the extent of his own poverty and smallness. He tells Jesus that he is not worthy to have him come to his house. Yet, unlike us, that centurion feels ashamed in front of such a good man. And he speaks the splendid words that, with great spiritual wisdom, the liturgy places on our lips, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed." We could roughly explain his thinking as follows: "If I who am under imperial authority have power over my soldiers, then you who come from God surely must have greater power." Seeing the sincerity of the man’s heart, Jesus praises his faith. He is a pagan, and yet he has great faith. Faith does not mean belonging, it means trusting in Jesus completely. And the centurion hears the good prophet tell him: "Go. What you believed will happen." We could say that the Lord is swayed by his faith. And, in fact, the servant was healed "in that hour," as the evangelist notes, as a sign of Jesus’ power. Not only was the servant healed, but the centurion too. In encountering Jesus he discovered that he was unworthy, but he also found someone who profoundly understood him. With the feelings of this pagan centurion we can approach the Lord certain that he will come to meet us.