Is 2:1-5; Ps 122:1-9; Mt 8:5-11: The whole season of Advent is given over to rejoicing. The Third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday” in English that would be Rejoice Sunday. By the time this season rolls around we seem to be out of practice. Somehow we have forgotten how to rejoice. Indeed, we need a good reason, a heartfelt motivation, for rejoicing. Today’s Psalm provides a few clues worthy of our consideration. First we need a goal. We need to know the end of this Advent Pilgrimage. Psalm 122 invites us: “We will go up to the house of the LORD.” From our first step to our last step, all through life, we are on a journey to our true home, the house of the LORD. We have been made to live with the LORD for endless days. Secondly, we need to move as a community. All of the tribes of the LORD are at home in the city of compact unity, the New and Eternal Jerusalem. Next, what will we do once we have arrived? We will give thanks to the name of the LORD, and we will sit upon the judgment seats, seats for the house of David, the New David, the True King, and the Lord Jesus Christ. All the way home we learn how to pray; we become true intercessors for all who have been called to live in the boundless mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Only then, will we know true peace and great rejoicing. Indeed, the Prophet Isaiah reveals that all the nations are invited to climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob. It is the Lord Jesus, the Prophet of Prophets, who praises the faith of the pagan centurion. Indeed, his suffering servant brings forth such a great and admirable faith; even in this generation we need such a faith-filled witness. At every Eucharist we recall this soldier’s faith and learn to pray as he prayed. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Not only does the Prophet Isaiah have a goal for pilgrims who share his faith, his vision is God’s vision. The LORD wants all the nations to walk in the bright glory of his light. Indeed, this glimpse of the future is full of hope. All the nations will seek to climb he mountain of the LORD’s house because it is the highest mountain. It can be seen far and wide. It dominates the horizon. Indeed, climbing this mountain is a symbol for the striving for true virtue and glorious living. We need to be instructed in his ways; we need to walk in his paths. Indeed, the instruction we need comes from Zion; it is the word of the LORD that proceeds from Jerusalem. The LORD alone can judge between the nations and impose terms on the peoples. He the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the LORD alone knows us heart to heart. He knows of what we are made, and he knows what we need to be so filled with peace that war is no longer considered a solution to human struggles and disagreements. If we are to beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, we need to desire God’s will for us more than our own designs and plans. We need to trust his power to rescue us from our fears and our knee jerk reactions of self-defense. We need to see the vision of Isaiah or we will continue to raise swords against each other. Without his glimpse of God’s Future, we will continue to train for war again. Advent dreaming invites us to walk in the light of the LORD. Indeed, we are summoned to see what no one can see without a divine vision. Advent is another opportunity to envision the love of God making us one family.
The centurion must have had some kind of prophetic vision or insight into the very nature of the Lord Jesus. He was secure enough to approach this stranger and foreigner with a request that was quite dangerous. This Jewish wonder worker could have told him to go find a pagan miracle man. However, the Lord Jesus shares the vision of the Father, and from God’s perspective anyone who is suffering is a brother or sister. The divine irony here of course is that the very Imperial Power that kept the Jews in their place is powerless and needy in the face of human suffering. The Lord Jesus has come to confront evil and illness in the whole human family. He has come to rescue us from the illusions of the evil one; the Lord Jesus gives us a clear vision of the truth that will set us free from fear and prejudice in every age. He has come to heal us from every disease and illness; the Lord Jesus takes our suffering and us into his healing embrace. We grow close to him in all our suffering because he has triumphed over suffering and death by his own crucifixion and resurrection. It was nothing less than rejoicing in his own divine heart that enabled the Lord Jesus to praise the pagan centurion. This is the kind of rejoicing we are invited to share in Advent and all the rest of the year. Indeed, we hope to be among those who come from east, west, north, and south to recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the banquet of the heavenly Kingdom.