Feast of St. Francis Xavier, S.J.
Matthew 8: 5-11
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.
For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Saint Francis Xavier, whose feast we celebrate today, was a roommate of St. Ignatius Loyola at the University of Paris. It is reasonable to say that Christ came to Francis through Ignatius. When Ignatius moved in, Francis was living a rather dissolute life, and he found his new roommate odd and overly pious. Francis was won to Christ, however, by Ignatius’ persistent evangelization, and went on to bring Christ into the lives of hundreds of thousands of people as he evangelized from India to Japan.
Ultimately, of course, it was the power of Christ that gave new vision to Francis, just as he did for the blind man in today’s Gospel, but it was through Ignatius that he did so. During this season of Advent, in which we anticipate the coming of Christ into the world, it is good to consider how Christ comes to us through other people.
We all need people in our lives who show us Christ: family and friends, colleagues and neighbors, priests and religious to name a few. God can deal with us as spiritual creatures and communicate himself directly to our souls. But he generally prefers to deal with us as human beings, and so he communicates to us in creation, including through other people. We receive in order that we might give in return. As we have received Christ from others, so we can pass him along to other people.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus offers to come heal the centurion’s servant, but instead the centurion makes a beautiful profession of faith in Jesus’ power to heal even at a distance. Jesus is impressed, and says so. But today’s reading ends with Jesus saying, “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.”
It’s a striking image that the Church thereby invites us to stop and meditate upon: multitudes coming from the world over to dine with the patriarchs of Israel in the great messianic feast. Why do they come? And why do we wish to join them? Like the centurion, they simply come for Jesus. Jesus is of course the host and the guest of honor at the messianic banquet, and there we will receive every blessing and grace, most of all eternal life.
—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.
Lord, we ask that we seek to listen and follow your ways. We turn to you with great hope — a hope that transcends the immediacy of our concerns. We will approach the day with an anticipation of the graces you desire to give us. In this time of waiting, strengthen our resolve to become more patient when patience leads to better communications, better decisions, sustained hope, and a choice to trust in your faithfulness.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!