We Catholics say the words at every Mass: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.’ We know the Centurion of the lakeside garrison at Capernaum addressed them to Jesus, and they are a timely reminder of our unworthiness and sinfulness. But when Father Anthony read the passage from Luke 7 recently, I heard a subplot that I found interesting.
A certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.
The Centurion does not address Jesus directly, but trusts his Jewish friends to present his plea, which they do, earnestly. The Centurion sends a second group of friends with the message:
I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
It is not clear that Jesus ever entered the Centurion’s house, or met him outside. But the intercession of the Centurion’s friends to Jesus was prayer enough. The servant was healed.
At All Saints’ tide I take three lessons I take from this story: firstly, to pray for others, as the Centurion’s friends do; secondly, to be open to praying to the saints, and thirdly, to put this text before any evangelical friends who shy away from doing so as ‘un-Biblical’.
You don’t have to pray to the saints ( although the standard prayer in the Litany is ‘Saint N., pray for us’) – but it may help!