Saturday, September 15, 2007

Domine, non sum dignus (Lord, I am not worthy)

The readings for today may be found at

This is a familiar but still curious story from the gospel of Luke ( Lk 7:1-10 ). Capernaum was by the Sea of Galilee, it was also the home of Peter. The bystanders urge Jesus to heal the centurion's slave because "he built our synagogue for us." Having made one pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I am now an expert in these things. The ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum that still stand are of the "white synagogue" that was built out of marble hauled in from far away. It did not exist in the time of Jesus. The synagogue that is under the "white synagogue" is called the "black synagogue" because it was built of the local, black basalt. This is the synagogue that existed in the time of Jesus. Was it the one built by the centurion? We cannot say.
The centurion would seem to have been in the ranks of what the Jews called "God fearers." They were edified by the religion of the Jews, and sought to conform to it without actually converting. They were respected in the community, and, as is the case reported here, were often benefactors thereof. Jesus responds to the urging of the crowd and follows the messengers of the centurion. And here is where the incident turns. Before Jesus can even arrive at his house, the centurion has second thoughts, and sends other servants to tell Jesus that he is not worthy to have him "come under his roof." The centurion understands authority and respect. He knows that Jesus can command the illness to depart without even sullying himself (becoming ritually unclean) by entering the home of a gentile.
The faith of this gentile, and his sensitivity to the requirements of the Jewish religion astonish Jesus. If such faith can be found outside of Israel, how much more should it be evident in the members of the household of the Faith?
How often do we Christians play fast and loose with the sanctity that we should exhibit, and the holiness of the God of whom we are not worthy. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.
The following is a quotation from the Treatise on the Most Blessed Sacrament by St. Thomas More, Martyr. "A treatise to receive the Blessed Body of our Lord Sacramentally and Virtually both, made in the year of our Lord, 1534, by Sir Thomas More Knight, while he was prisoner in the Tower of London, which he entitled thus as followeth: To Receive the Blessed Body Of Our Lord Sacramentally and Virtually both."
For if we will but consider, if there were a great worldly prince, which for special favour that he bare us, would come visit us in our own house, what a business we would then make, and what a work it would be for us to see that our house were trimmed up in every point to the best of our possible power, and everything so provided and ordered, that he should by his honourable receiving perceive what affection we bear him, and in what high estimation we have him.
We should soon see by the comparing of that worldly prince and this Heavenly Prince together (between which twain is far less comparison than is between a man and a mouse), inform and teach ourself with how lowly, how tender loving heart, how reverent humble manner we should endeavour ourself to receive this glorious, heavenly King, the King of Kings, Almighty God Himself, that so lovingly doth vouchsafe to enter, not only into our house (to which the noble man Centurio knowledged himself unworthy), but His 'Precious Body into our vile wretched carcass, and His Holy Spirit into our poor simple soul.

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