Second Day of Advent   13 comments


Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window with Centurion for Church of the Good Shepherd, Raleigh, North Carolina

Designed by J. & R. Lamb Studios

Image Source = Library of Congress


Human Faith and Divine Mercy



First Reading for Year A:  Isaiah 4:2-6 (Revised English Bible):

On that day the plant that the LORD has grown will become glorious in its beauty, and the fruit of the land will be pride and the splendour of the survivors of Israel.

Then those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, every one whose survival in Jerusalem was decreed will be called holy.  When the Lord washes away the filth of the women of Zion and cleanses Jerusalem from bloodstains by a spirit of judgment burning like fire, he will create a cloud of smoke by day and a bright flame of fire by night over the whole building on Mount Zion and over all her assemblies; for his glory will be a canopy over all, a cover giving shade by day from the heat, a refuge and shelter from storm and rain.

First Reading for Years B and C:  Isaiah 2:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

This is the message which Isaiah son of Amon received in a vision, about Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

will be set over all other mountains,

raised high above the hills.

All the nations will stream towards it,

and many peoples will go and say,

Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.

For instruction comes from Zion,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He will judge between the nations

as arbiter among many peoples.

They will beat their swords into mattocks

and their spears into pruning-knives;

nation will not lift up sword against nation

nor ever again be trained for war.

Come, people of Jacob,

let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Psalm 122 (Revised English Bible):

I rejoiced when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD.

Now we are standing

within your gates, Jerusalem:

Jerusalem, a city built

compactly and solidly.

There the tribes went up, the tribes of the LORD,

the duty laid on Israel.

For there the thrones of justice were set,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May those who love you prosper;

peace be within your ramparts

and prosperity in your palaces.

For the sake of these my brothers and my friends,

I shall say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God

I shall pray for your well-being.

Matthew 8:5-13 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus entered Capernaum a centurion came up to ask his help.


he said,

my servant is lying at home paralyzed and racked with pain.

Jesus said,

I will come and cure him.

But he centurion replied,

Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof.  You need only say the word, and my servant will be cured.  I know, for I am myself under orders, with soldiers under me.  I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; to another, ‘Come here,’ and he he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’

Jesus heard him with astonishment, and said to the people who were following him,

Truly I tell you: nowhere in Israel have I found such faith.  Many, I tell you, will come from east to west to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of Heaven.  But those who were born to the kingdom will be thrown out into the dark, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Then Jesus said to the centurion,

Go home, as you have believed, so let it be.

At that very moment the boy recovered.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The two Old Testament options speak of what God will establish on earth.  God, we read, will create peace and justice on the planet at an unspecified time.  Then, in the psalm, we find mention of peace in Jerusalem (That would be nice.) and human devotion toward God.  Yet such faith is not restricted to Hebrews, as the lection from Matthew makes clear.  The centurion was an officer of the Roman army, the military force occupying the Jewish homeland.  He was the face of the enemy, and he had more faith in Jesus than did many of Jesus’ countrymen.

During Advent we Christians are supposed to prepare for Christmas.  So may we let Jesus gestate liturgically until late December 24.  News of the approaching birth of the incarnate Word of God is joyous indeed, and it is for all–Jews and Gentiles alike–who have active faith in it.  Ethnicity and race do not matter; neither do social status nor national origin nor politics.  As I have written on this blog and will certainly write again, grace can be scandalous.  It is like the wind and the Holy Spirit; it goes where it will.

As we take these early steps in our Advent pilgrimage may we embrace the scandal of grace and extend it to others, as we have opportunity.


Written on May 31, 2010


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