Monday September 13, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33) Gospel (St. Luke 7:1-10)
In the Gospel reading today, we all recognize in the words of the centurion the very words that we use right before receiving Holy Communion: Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. That would be the actual literal translation of what the Latin says. We recognize our own unworthiness that Our Lord would be there; yet, at the same time, it is because of His love for us that He continues to give Himself to us.
When we put that together with the first reading, we hear Saint Paul chastising the people of Corinth because of the divisions within their community and especially because of their lack of charity toward one another. He tells them that as they gather together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper what is happening is that, rather than being a means of unity and ultimately of grace for them, it winds up having the exact opposite effect because they are being selfish. One is doing their own thing and someone is getting drunk and not sharing their food with someone else and what not. It is a matter that as they gather together, supposedly as a community, there is no unity within them.
Saint Paul then goes on to remind them of exactly what it is that Jesus did at the Last Supper. He reminds us of the Eucharist. He tells them (and I assume we will have this in tomorrow’s reading) straight out that anyone who eats and drinks without first being able to discern what this is becomes guilty of the very Body and Blood of Christ because they are receiving the Eucharist in a sacrilegious way. He says that many are sick and some have died for this very reason: because they have received Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. So we recognize our own unworthiness, but it is not merely just a statement of our own unworthiness – Lord, just say the word and my soul will be healed – rather if we have become truly unworthy in the sense that we are in the state of mortal sin we may not receive Holy Communion until we have been to Confession so that we are in the state of grace.
Even in the state of grace, in our humanness we are not worthy to receive the Lord. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy because all we can do is something that is on the natural level, but the Eucharist is God Himself. Therefore, the only one who can make us truly worthy is Our Lord Himself, and that is precisely what He does for us so that we would be able to receive Him in Holy Communion.
But the other element that is of importance here is that Our Lord would hopefully be able to say of us what He was able to say of the centurion, and that has to deal with his [the centurion’s] faith. He said, Never in Israel have I found such faith. How about in us? Do we really believe that when we speak those words the Lord makes us worthy to receive Him? Do we really believe that when the priest speaks the words over the bread and wine they actually become the Body and Blood of Christ, the very Person of Jesus Christ? Not merely a symbol but the very reality of the whole Person of Christ?
What the Lord is looking for is that kind of faith. But we also have to understand that if we are going to be healed so we can be made worthy to receive the Lord that faith we need to have in order to be healed also has to come out in the way we live. The charity, as Saint Paul makes very clear, we need to have. Remember the words of Our Lord. If we have something against someone else, we are to leave our offering at the altar and go and be reconciled first before we would give our gifts. How much more when the gift is God Himself do we need to make sure that we are not harboring hatred in our hearts for someone else, that we are not holding onto grudges, that we are not doing anything that is going to bring disunity into the Body of Christ. Now we know there are going to be disagreements on the human level, but a disagreement or hatred or a grudge or whatever it may be are entirely different things. We have to be willing to forgive. We have to be willing to let go.
So if there is anything in your heart that you have against another person, bring all that to the Lord first. Give it to Jesus and let go. Allow Him to heal the woundedness inside so that you will be able to receive Him in the most worthy manner. This is what we have to be about: the charity that is required of us. Saint Paul makes crystal clear in this reading we heard that if we do not have that charity toward others we are bringing ruin upon ourselves and ultimately mockery upon the Eucharist. So we need to really look very seriously at that and be very, very careful that we do not just go through the motions or that we become so accustomed to coming up to receive Holy Communion that we do it regardless of what is going on within. We have to make sure we have the right disposition, and the right disposition is ultimately to be in the state of grace. But being in the state of grace, we also want to be filled with charity, love for God and love for neighbor, as Our Lord commands us. It is when we are in that particular state that we are truly and properly disposed to be able to receive Holy Communion. So beg the Lord that if there is something in the way He would show it to you. And once it is recognized, pray for the other person, bring that whole thing to the Lord whatever it may be and lay it at His feet so your soul can be healed and the Lord’s word will make you worthy to receive Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.