At yesterday’s Eucharist, we prayed that our hearts desire the warmth of God’s love and our minds search for the light of God’s Word. It is good to know that the first Sunday of Advent sets the tone for the rest of the week to come.
This Monday in Advent clarifies even further, "what" we desire and for "whom" we search!
In an incredible passage from Isaiah , God’s word makes clear that we wait for a kingdom that is not yet here, but one which we can catch glimpses of even now. It is kingdom where all of us will be called "holy" – that is "set apart for the Lord." We will all gather on the site of Mount Zion – God’s holy place- led by a smoking cloud by day and a flaming light by night, just like the ancient Israelites of old. The Lord’s glory will cover us so that we will not know heat or storm, but only God’s protection and shelter. It is truly a magnificent image of what we are hoping for and one that wonderfully encompasses all of us, not just some of us!
In this incredible new existence, all will see this Kingdom – this power of God as personified in Jesus. It was not by chance that in the Gospel today Jesus encounters a centurion. He is an unabashedly a non-Jew, a non-believer, an officer of the Roman army of oppression, someone typically and traditionally despised. Yet even he can glimpse something of this kingdom in the man Jesus. He detects in Jesus the power of this kingdom where wrong will be made right, where darkness will be made light, where sickness will be healed. It is a faith that astounds even Jesus! A faith that makes Jesus reiterate one of the pivotal truths of the kingdom for which we wait…that "many" will come from east and west and will recline with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the heavenly banquet. Yes, even this centurion, this instrument of Roman oppression, will be welcomed at the holy table!
The older I become, the more I realize that the labels we use to divide us one from the other – whether religious, political, psychological, economic… you name them – have no place in God’s kingdom. Moreover, amazingly, like Jesus in today’s gospel, we can often catch glimpses of the kingdom in the people and places we least expect it.
As we begin this workweek, may we have the grace to look…
Patrick Quinn is the former director of Planned Giving at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.