Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
This prayer is our liturgical preparation for receiving Communion. There are two changes to the translation we are used to; both deserve our close attention.
The old translation said “worthy to receive you,” but the new translation is more faithful to the Latin and to Scripture. The new translation is not referring to the roof of our mouths. To meaningfully pray this response, we must be familiar with its context:
As [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, begging him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” … And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Matt. 8:5-10, 13)
The statement of the centurion was an expression of his great faith in the power that Jesus had. The centurion believed that Jesus did not need to travel and enter his house, but had the ability to cure his servant by simply willing it and saying it. To come under the roof means to enter the house, implying a familiar relationship. But even more important is that according to Jewish ritual law, entering the house of a Gentile would have made Jesus “impure.” (cf. Acts 10:28)
There is a great spiritual message here. God could have remedied our sorry, fallen state just by willing it, just by saying a word. But instead, He sent His Word to us, coming under our roof – taking on a body of flesh and our human condition – and suffering ridicule, persecution, and death on a cross. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
So what roof do we mean? We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and our flesh is like the “roof” of this temple. We know we are unworthy to be such temples, where God is present spiritually; we are even less worthy to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. But here Christ does for us what He did not do for the centurion, not because our faith is any less (although oftentimes it is), but because “God had foreseen something better for us.” (Heb. 11:40) Jesus gladly comes to us in the Eucharist.
We also say “my soul shall be healed,” instead of just “I shall be healed.” This does not mean we are distinguishing the soul from the rest of our person, for the Latin word anima means more than just “soul.” It also means “mind” and “vital principle.” Our soul is, in a way, our identity. Being healed in our soul is more radical than simply being healed bodily (which is great, but could be superficial); it is being healed at our core. A healed soul manifests its wholeness throughout the rest of our being.
There are many fruits of receiving Holy Communion devoutly: it increases our union with Christ, it strengthens our spiritual life (in the way material food strengthens our bodily life), it separates us from sin, it wipes away venial sin (but not mortal sin, which is forgiven through the sacrament of Reconciliation), and it strengthens us against committing future mortal sin. (cf. Catechism 1391-1395) This is the healing our souls experience when we receive the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord.
[RIGHT](Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, pp. 144-146)[/RIGHT]