June 25, 2011 - Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

We are familiar with this phrase from the Gospel today: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” We say it at every Mass, before we receive Communion. When the better translation comes along this November, the reference will be even clearer.

The phrase is rather unusual though. We say to the Lord, “I am not worthy to receive you” shortly before we receive him. I think that this has caused many people to think that what we are saying is “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but if you say the word, I will be worthy to receive you.” This is not right though. As it stands in the context of the story it means, “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but I know you can work by only saying a word.” The saying of the word is the alternative to reception.

Why do we say this then? It is because of what Jesus says. “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” No one! Really? Not Peter? Not John the Baptist? Not your mother? And there is no reason to limit this statement to the human nature of our Lord. He freely uses “I” to refer to his person. He knows Abraham, our father in faith. He knows Israel himself, and all the prophets and King David.

Our Lord may have been hyperbolizing here; the form of the words in Greek suggests that he was. He has found some rather remarkable expressions of faith before, but what is certain is that he has found something extraordinary in the centurion. The centurion does not doubt in the least that Jesus is capable of healing by merely saying a word. He is not asking for evidence that Jesus is the Christ. He has not come to see some great work. He simply wants his servant to be healed, and there is not an ounce of doubt about this request.

So we recall these words at every Mass. With these words we remember that we are not worthy of the great gifts that Jesus has given to us, and we also remember the limitless power of Jesus Christ to work in whatever way he chooses.  Truly, we are not worthy to receive Jesus, but, then again, receiving Jesus is not about being worthy. He condescends to us.