The Lord be with you… (et cum spirituo tuo)
Weddings in ancient Israel involved a number of customs we do not observe. The business in the parable about virgins waiting into the night with lighted lamps may leave us a little confused. When we go to weddings, we don’t usually see that.
But the end of the parable touches a familiar chord: At a wedding banquet, you want to be inside, as opposed outside. The food, music, and dancing take place inside. Outside, it is either cold, or there are a lot of gnats, mosquitoes, and crickets.
Or—even if it is a beautiful, crisp fall day, and the wedding banquet takes place on the lawn or in the garden—you still want to be inside the hedge or the fence, not outside it. You don’t want to show up at the garden gate and have someone say, “Ah. No dice. Take a walk. I never knew you.”
When the Lord Jesus walked the earth, He wound up inside sometimes and outside sometimes.
He was conceived and grew inside the Blessed Virgin’s womb. He was born outside the inn. His parents carried Him into the Temple. King Herod’s rage forced them to flee outside their homeland.
St. Peter welcomed Christ into his family home in Capernaum. The Savior’s mission among apathetic people in other towns forced Him to spend long, cold nights outside, with no place to rest His Head.
Christ and His faithful Apostles celebrated the first Mass inside the Upper Room. Judas wandered out into the night to betray the Lord. St. Mary Magdalen anointed Jesus with aromatic spikenard inside her family home in Bethany. The Roman centurions crucified Him outside the city gates of Jerusalem.
When we welcome Christ inside, we have communion with Him in the deepest part of ourselves. We welcome Him inside, here on earth. We look forward to when He will welcome us into heaven.
We welcome Him into the interior house of our souls. But this act of welcoming must begin with a humble acknowledgement of certain facts. The world cannot really accommodate the glory of the Creator. We are not worthy of such a guest.
When the Archangel Gabriel told the Blessed Mother that her womb would enfold the Son of God, she said, ‘I am nothing but a lowly handmaid.’ When Christ visited pagan country, the Phoenician woman welcomed Him by saying, ‘Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the tables of their masters.’ When Christ summoned Peter to be His disciple, the fisherman demurred, ‘Teacher, I am a sinful man.’
–Humble acknowledgement that this Guest out-classes our cribs.
Can anyone think of the most famous example? The prototypical humble acknowledgement that our accommodations are unworthy of God?
…A servant lay deathly ill…His master sought out the holy man from Nazareth for help…Christ said, ‘Yes, I will come to your house to heal your servant…’ The centurion protests: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Just say the word, and my servant shall be healed.’
Everybody remember this? The centurion believed that Christ could command that the servant be healed right then and there, without even moving from that spot. The Lord Jesus marveled at the man’s faith.
We want to be inside the eternal banquet hall when our earthly pilgrimage ends. We get there by welcoming Christ now. He comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. When our souls are swept clean of serious sin, we prepare to receive Him. But we don’t do it without acknowledging our unworthiness to be His hosts.
“Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to His supper.”
–Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
This prayer of the Mass quotes the centurion. But what exactly did the centurion say? “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”
As we recall, the new edition of the Missal translates the original Latin more precisely. So, when we start using our pew cards in three weeks, we will echo the centurion’s words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”
When the centurion said this, he was referring to his large house in the city of Capernaum, a house which now lies in ruins under centuries of dust. When we say the same words, we refer to our interior house—the place where we live for all time, no matter where we are, whether we live in the body or rest in death, the home we have that no force of nature can destroy: our soul.
May Christ dwell now in our souls, unworthy as we may be to have Him, so that we may dwell in Him forever in the kingdom of glory.