The words of the centurion in today’s Gospel are words we repeat each Mass during the Eucharistic prayer.  We acknowledge our unworthiness before God right before we are invited to gather around God’s table and receive the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ.  This invitation is twofold.  We are invited to receive the Body of Christ, present as the Eucharist, and at the same time to deepen our membership in the Body of Christ, the Church.

After the centurion’s profession of faith in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that people will come from all over to be part of the banquet of heaven.  One of the things I love most about the Catholic Church is that it is simultaneously universal and diverse.  I can go into a Catholic Church anywhere in the world and understand what’s happening at Mass, even if I don’t speak the language.  At the same time, the churches just a few miles from my own parish have distinct and beautiful rituals celebrating the culture of the community.  As Fr. Andrew Greeley said, “Catholicism means, ‘Here comes everyone.’”

As we begin this Advent season, what opportunity is there for you to welcome someone to the table?  How can we reach across differences to unite in our faith in Christ?

—Lauren Gaffey is the Charis Ministries Program Director for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality, and coordinates Jesuit Connections in Chicago for the Midwest Jesuits.  




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