Monday, December 3, 2007

Germen Domini

On that day, the branch of the LORD will be luster and glory... ~ Isaiah 4:2
Through Jesus Christ's coming, salvation, and redemption of the world, God does indeed wash "away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purges Jerusalem's blood from her midst with a blast of searing judgment" (Isaiah 4:4). All of this vivid imagery from Isaiah, which is quite indicative of most of the book itself, is at most evident here and is an especially useful reminder at this time of the year of what the Lord will create at that specific time: "a smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night" (Isaiah 4:5). How powerful is this message! His glory is meant to be "shelter and protection" from "the parching heat of day" and "refuge and cover" from "storm and rain" (Isaiah 4:6). He (Christ) is there to supplant the Old with the New, as we are reminded in Isaiah 4:5:
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. ~ Isaiah 4:5

But how does God do that? This is where we are given the narrative of the healing of the centurion's servant from Matthew 8, which is where we as the Church draw the Centurion's Prayer, the prayer that we recite each time before Holy Eucharist. In Matthew's account, we are told of the centurion's complete faith in Jesus to bring the needed curing of his servant's suffering.

And it is here, at Matthew 8:10-12, we are shown the connection between the first and Gospel readings, where Christ's saving power is not only for the Jewish people but that of the whole world (in this case, the centurion), that His salvific mission is a universal one:
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, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." ~ Matthew 8:10-12

It should be noted here that this is one of the only cases where Jesus is said to have healed not by touch but at a distance. This is a key point that should not be missed or ignored. For it was in the centurion's faith in Christ and His power to heal, to reconcile, and to save that his servant was healed:
And Jesus said to the centurion, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you." And at that very hour (his) servant was healed. ~ Matthew 8:13

This is why we repeat the words of the centurion before receiving Holy Communion since it is our firmest belief that it is He in the Eucharist that is entering under our roof. It is He who is entering into our bodies, "a temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19), to save us, to heal us. He is then where at that where we are in communion with God most, as we allow Him to work within us, to do His will.

And that brings us to St. Francis Xavier who is remembered this day. He is the co-founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and is a great Catholic missionary from the 14th century. He was born into an affluent family but ended up spending much of his time in missionary work, and through God's many graces (apostolic zeal among them), ended up bringing tens of thousands of people to Christ in a matter of only ten years (second in tradition only to St. Paul). It is in this way that St. Francis Xavier imitated Christ so well that even to his last breath he continued to pursue Christ and bring Christ to others. It is here most that he lived up to the Jesuit motto Ad maiorem Dei gloriam ("For the greater glory of God").

How are we to bring Christ to others? The odds may seem insurmountable and the chances of a conversion (or reconversion) of the heart distant, but it is through that firm and complete belief in Him that we will hear Christ's words, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you" (Matthew 8:13), and see our works through Him be fulfilled. We can do nothing, but in Christ we are strengthened to be capable of anything, even works of the likes of St. Francis Xavier.

Today's readings:
Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
First: Is 4:2-6
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 122:1-2, 3-4b, 4cd-5, 6-7, 8-9
Gospel: Mt 8:5-11

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