Advent Reflection: Submitting to Christ

To live in happy submission to Christ under His loving Kingship – that ought to be the goal of our life!  That is what we see in today’s Gospel, in which a Roman centurion is praised by Jesus for his great faith.  He is praised for his clear understanding of authority and submission, and for his great trust in Jesus’ willingness and ability to care and cure.

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 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.”

(Matthew 8:5-11)

What can we learn from this Roman Centurion’s words and attitude almost 2,000 years later?  First, that Jesus has authority to mandate, power to make things happen, and can and must be trusted.  It goes well for us when we submit to His loving authority.  Jesus is committed to our well-being: He wants only and always our good – even if that means carrying the Cross with Him.  Secondly, that for Jesus –and for His followers– to reign is to serve!  Authority is not meant for power plays and positioning nor despotic attitudes and actions.  No, authority is meant for service.  Therefore, submission to rightful authority ought to be easy, knowing that we are being cared for well.  Pope Benedict XVI said it well at the recent Consistory at which he created 24 new Cardinals when he called us all to avoid “the logic of dominion” and embrace “the logic of service”, the logic of the Cross:

“James’ and John’s request and the indignation of the “other 10” Apostles raise a central question to which Jesus wishes to respond: who is great, who is “first” for God? First of all, attention goes to the conduct that runs the risk of assuming it is “those that are considered the rulers of nations”: “to dominate and oppress.” Jesus points out to his disciples a completely different way: “Among you, however, it is not thus.” His community follows another rule, another logic, another model: “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all.” The criterion of greatness and primacy according to God is not dominion but service; diakonia is the fundamental law of the disciple and of the Christian community and it allows us to perceive something of the “Lordship of God.”  (…) It is a message that is true for the Apostles, for the whole Church, true above all for those who have tasks to guide the People of God. It is not the logic of dominion, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bending down to wash the feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross which is at the bottom of all exercise of authority. At all times the Church is committed to be conformed to this logic and to attest it to make the true “Lordship of God” shine, which is that of love. (Full homily)

To the Centurion’s and the Pope’s inspiring words, I respond:

Lord,

I am subject to You.

My life is under Your authority.

Tell me to “go” and I will go.

Tell me to “come” and I will come.

Tell me to “do this” and I will do it.

Be pleased with Your servant, my Lord and King, as I serve You in others.

Amen.

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