He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Monday, September 7, 2015

Love it to Death: Enter Under My Roof

This week, I was an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.  I have been trained to perform those duties for many years, but it has been several years since I have had an occasion to do so because I have declined to perform those duties every week at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as do most people who are trained for it in our parish.

For a few hours, the Body of Christ was at my apartment, safely in a pyx made of precious metal. Unsure of where to put Him, I placed the pyx on my bookshelf front and center, prominently displayed among items of importance given by dear friends.  My instinct was to make sure He could rest where I would naturally remember joy and love.  Not because He is lacking anything, but because it properly disposes me toward joy and love in His presence.

It was a strange thing to have Him under my roof.  I occasionally play Gregorian chant anyway, but I couldn't imagine playing anything else at the time, so I fired up my laptop and found a very peaceful album of Gregorian chant.  I also felt strongly that it was right to kneel in reverence and pray for a moment before moving on to my daily tasks.

I found that the Real Presence shaped my life in small and yet profound ways as I went about my usual household tasks, and in much the same way that it shapes my life during the liturgy.  I found myself turning to Him as I washed out a dish.  I found myself wanting to sing His praises.  I found myself praying to be adopted into the divine household, though I am far from worthy of such an honor.

Before receiving Holy Communion during Mass, we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."  This is one of the many instances during the Mass that Sacred Scripture is drawn upon for the personal and communal prayer of the Christian liturgy.

In the Gospel of Matthew, a scene is recounted in which Jesus is asked by a Roman centurion to heal his servant.  Jesus, being a man of sacramental character, wanted to go to his servant and heal him, just as he healed blind and deaf men by laying his hands on them.

"And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. " (from the Douay-Rheims Bible)

The centurion was correct of course, that Jesus did not need to enter under his roof in order to heal the servant.  And in the same way, Jesus does not need to enter under the roof of our mouth in order for our soul to be healed.  Nonetheless, he insists that we eat His flesh and drink His blood in the Gospel of John.  He is not content to merely heal our soul at a distance, but rather wishes to reach out to us and heal us in our body and our blood as well by His precious body and His precious blood.

Christ comes as the Son of God, the God who held nothing back in loving His creatures, the God who sent His only Son as a sacrifice so that we all might be sons and daughters of God, adopted into the household of our Lord and Savior.  As God treats us with such an extravagant love, we who are so much lower than He who sets the stars in the sky, so too must we treat our least brothers and sisters with that same extravagant love; whatsoever we do to them we also do to Christ who poured out His life as an offering of perfect love for us.

As valuable a lesson as it is to realize that we need to treat everyone as if we are not worthy for them to be under our roof, particularly the most vulnerable and downtrodden, it is a great joy to remember that God invites us to enter under His roof, to partake of the divine life of love in the household of the Lord.  He says to us, "Enter under my roof, all of you who are poor in spirit, who are merciful, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who make peace, who are pure in heart, who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness."

It is precisely in following His example of inviting us under His roof despite our lowliness that we learn to love others as He loved us.  It is in following his example of inviting all into the divine life of love that we learn to invite all of our brothers and sisters into seeking the divine life of love with us, adopting them into the great family of the pilgrim Church on Earth and the triumphant Church in Heaven.

It is in following His example that we love to death our lack of hospitality, welcoming all those who are made in the imago dei to join us in accepting the grace which enables us to enter under the heavenly roof in the houses He has prepared for us.  It is in accepting the Body and Blood which He offers that we are enabled to take our place at the table of divine love, to feast at the eternal banquet which Love has laid out for all who enter under His roof.

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