Last week in this segment, we looked at the words that the priest says when inviting the people to come to communion. This week we will look at the words of the reply which the people make: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
To understand these words, we have to go to chapter 8, verses 5 to 13 of St Matthew’s Gospel (or in Luke’s Gospel Chapter 7, verses 1-10). This is what we read:
When he (Jesus) went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is at home paralysed and in terrible pain.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will come myself and cure him’. The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man, “Go” and he goes; to another “Come” and he comes; to my servant “Do this” and he does it. When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found faith as great as this.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go back; let this be done for you, as you have believed.” And his servant was cured at that hour.
So the words that the liturgy gives us to say in response to the priest’s invitation to communion are modelled on those of the centurion in this passage. This is the reason for what can seem the strange use of the word ‘roof’ in the current translation of the Mass.
These words invite us to be as that Roman centurion who came before Jesus in such great faith and trust. We acknowledge that we cannot be worthy of the Lord’s coming to us and we acknowledge that he comes to us to be with us and heal us. The centurion clearly acknowledges that Jesus is Lord of all things and so do we as we enter into communion with him.
All the images in the Invitation to Communion that we have seen last week and this week are important. They give us ways of praying in the silence after communion.
By Fr Frank O’Loughlin
Main Image: Christ and the Centurion, Paolo Veronese, ca. 1571