First Week of Advent - Monday
One thing that is striking about both today’s readings is the image of peoples and nations coming together from around the world: the prophet Isaiah recounts his vision of God’s eternal reign, when all nations will stream to the mountain of the house of the Lord (Isaiah 2: 2), and in the Gospel Jesus praises the (pagan) centurion for his faith, commenting that ‘many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 8: 11).
Clearly, this hasn’t yet happened: the nations have not beaten their swords into ploughshares, or their spears into pruning hooks (cf. Isaiah 2: 4). On the contrary, we continue to hear of strife and conflict in many parts of the world. Thus, today’s scripture readings, as we might expect in Advent, point our attention forward to Christ’s second coming, when these visions of universal peace will indeed be realised.
However, they also present us with a challenge: for the Church of which we are all members is called already now in this present world to be the sacramental presence of the kingdom which Christ will come again to establish openly. In the Church, through Christ’s death and resurrection, that kingdom has already come. Thus we, through faith in Jesus Christ like that of the centurion in today’s Gospel, are to bear witness in the world to the nature of that kingdom, where ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation’ (Is 2: 4) and many from east and west will sit at table together, united by the friendship which Jesus, by his coming into the world, makes possible.