Just before holy Communion, priest and people alike gaze at the body and blood of Jesus Christ raised slightly aloft and testify together, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Very shortly this brief declaration of humility will be altered to read, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” The addition, or rather the restoration, of the phrase “that you should enter under my roof” will bring to mind, of course, the insistent words of the pagan centurion requesting the cure of a favored servant: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” At Mass, obviously the request is that the soul of the communicant be healed rather than the ills of a servant. But the church respected the original phrases of Sts. Matthew and Luke in whose Gospel versions this curing incident is found. And frankly the phrase “under my roof” is very dramatic and very graphic and well worth considering at this moment before intimate communion with the Lord.
What would Jesus have found “under (the) roof” of this pagan, military leader had the Master ventured through the front door? While Jesus later praised this centurion as a man of faith greater than that of the most of the Jews who Jesus was encountering on the streets of the Holy Land, it must be recalled that this soldier was a member of a foreign, occupying force. There was a certain illegitimacy even about his being there in the land of Israel. The independence and self-determination to which the Jews were entitled were greatly compromised by this man's presence in their homeland. Perhaps this soldier was one of those mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount who pressed these occupied people into service for miles on end. Maybe the cruelty that Jesus would experience during his final Passion was part of this man’s daily life. Maybe the illness of the servant was due to this man’s neglect and he approached Jesus out of guilt. Possibly there was an irregular living situation within the house that the man did not want exposed. This is all conjecture but everyone is aware that events occur “under one's roof” that are better left behind closed doors rather than risk public exposure.
As Catholics approach holy Communion Sunday after Sunday, it does not hurt to realize that worshippers are welcoming Jesus not only into a few moments of silent repose but the faithful are truly welcoming Christ “under (their) roof," into their private lives and personal routines. When welcoming Jesus "under (my) roof,” am I prepared to share with him the resentment that has built up with a family member? Will Jesus entering under my roof discover frivolous finances and the absence of charity? Would Jesus sense that my roof sheltered a life of prayer and a Christian spirit or simply a secular attitude and indulgent habits? Does my roof cover over violence, infidelity, dishonesty and scandal? Or perhaps a visit under my roof would reveal empty, hollow, barren rooms totally lacking the zeal and fervor that should characterize the Christian home.
Realizing that Christ in holy Communion will enter not only into my heart and my mind, but into every fabric of my being, every corner of my life, every secret recess of my history, should be very salutary. Christ’s entering under our roof should give every Catholic pause, evoking a slightly awkward moment when the believer reflects on whether his or her house is indeed in order and worthy to receive so grand a guest. Few of the faithful will be so complacent that they would not wish for a few more moments to tidy up before answering Christ’s sacramental knock at the door. Consequently, week after week and Sunday after Sunday, Catholics will be given this scriptural admonition to examine their own houses, to inspect their own lives, to recall what transpires under their own roofs, the better to welcome the soul’s most treasured guest.