“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.’” Matthew 8:8
Every time at mass during the Eucharistic Prayer, we hear the priest say the words derived from the centurion’s plea to Christ, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter unto my roof, but only say the words and my soul shall be healed.” As we approach Gaudete Sunday, the third week of Advent, now is a good time to ask ourselves, “how are we preparing our hearts to be a ‘roof’ for Christ to dwell under? Furthermore, are our hearts a joyful dwelling place for Christ?” The word “gaudete” in Latin means “rejoice” and so Gaudete Sunday is a time to await the coming of Christ with joy.
Consider this image of the Holy Family as depicted by Bartolome Esteban Murillo.
In Murillo’s painting, I notice a sense of warmth and happiness that radiates from Christ as the center of the home. Notice every character in this scene, Mary to the far left corner and Joseph to the right, and then Jesus in between his two parents in the middle of the painting’s focal point. Murillo’s interpretation of Mary and Joseph are two young parents with Iberian features, olive complexion and dark hair. Why does this matter? Using a context relevant to his time, Murillo provides a setting that invites the viewer to reflect on how they welcome Christ into their “home” like Mary and Joseph. In my own situation as a young parent to my daughter with my husband, I share a sense of similarity with young Mary and Joseph.
One key lesson of parenthood that I’ve learned is that infants demand full intention - there’s no going about it halfway. While we do have modern tools like baby carriers, wraps, and seats to help free our hands for a time, the fact remains that our hearts and minds remain on our young ones constantly for feeding, changing, and rocking. Observe Mary and Joseph’s eyes and how they trace to the painting’s center focal point, Christ. Like the Holy Family, like an attentive parent, do we have Christ as our center focal point in our hearts? In this season with so many distractions like shopping the holiday sales, strategizing travel to visit relatives, hosting gatherings, and attending parties, it can be easy to lose sight of Christ. But, like an attentive parent tending to their baby, we need to focus on welcoming Christ in our hearts.
How do we go about this? It might be simpler than it seems. A fellow Spaniard, Saint Teresa of Avila said, “God exists among the pots and the pans.” By including Christ in our everyday lives, we create a dwelling place for Him. In Murillo’s painting, we see Mary in the midst of work at a loom with a basket of laundry near her feet while Joseph has his carpenter’s desk right behind him. This scene so concretely captures Saint Teresa’s wise observation, that sanctity can be achieved by faithfully carrying out our roles and responsibilities. In the painting’s description from El Prado Museum it states, “The apparently insignificant composition of this painting exalts home life, the family and work.” By taking on our humanity as an infant, God redeemed and made everyday family life holy.
Finally, we welcome Christ into our homes when we go about our lives with joy. Notice the yellow cloth draped around Saint Joseph and Christ. Yellow typically represents happiness and joy, Christ and His guardian are quite literally enveloped in joy. And so should we when Christ is at the center of our internal dwelling places. During this advent season, reflect on how you can invite Christ into your homes, filled with its chores and responsibilities, and ask Him to sanctify these small, ordinary moments and convert them into opportunities for deeper relationships.
Image of "The Holy Family with a Little Bird" can be found here: