Monday of the Twenty–Fourth Week of the Year II
1 Corinthians 11:17–26, 33
Psalm 39:6–7a, 7b–8, 9, 16 (R. 1 Cor 11:26b)
All four pieces of today’s Liturgy of the Word — First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia Verse, and Gospel — converge in the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.
Saint Paul admonishes the Corinthians for their disorderly way of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Their common meal had given rise to abuses. He recalls them to what is essential, to the sacred tradition of the Eucharist. Already, Saint Paul speaks of the Eucharist as something “handed on” and “received.” The two essential components of the living tradition are reception and transmission. “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’” (1 Cor 11:23–26).
The last sentence has become one of the acclamations after the consecration in the Roman Missal: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” This illustrates just how the Church practices a corporate lectio divina. She begins by hearing the Word (lectio); then she repeats it over and over again, listening to all its resonances (meditatio). The Word then becomes the expression of her prayer (oratio); she integrates into her liturgy. Every word integrated into the liturgy of the Church is a “seed of contemplation” containing within itself the gift of communion with Christ in adoration and in love (contemplatio). Personal lectio divina simply replicates the corporate lectio divina of the Church at prayer.
The Responsorial Psalm gives us the prayer of the Heart of Christ from the moment of the Incarnation to the sacrifice of the Cross, “Behold, I come” (Ps 39:7). The refrain of the psalm repeats the Eucharistic injunction of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26b).
So often as the Church obeys the commandment of the Lord, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24), and the injunction of the Apostle, “Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes,” (1 Cor 11:26b), she experiences anew the words of Our Lord given us in the Alleluia Verse today: “God so loved the world that He gave His only–begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The Eucharist is the mystery of the Father so loving us that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He gives us His only–begotten Son again and again under the humble species of bread and wine. Whoever receives the Son in the Most Holy Sacrament, believing in Him, hoping in Him, and loving Him, has eternal life already here and now. The Eucharist is the foretaste of eternal life, the seed of immortality, the antidote to death, the pledge of participation in the resurrection of the Lord.
In the Gospel, the centurion, a pagan, shows us with what dispositions we are to receive the Lord into our hearts. In every Mass, the Church repeats the centurion’s words. In the classic Roman Rite the Domine, non sum dignus, the centurion’s prayer is repeated three times as the faithful beat their breasts.
My father’s generation grew up hearing the English translation of a popular Catholic hymn composed in German in 1777 (O Herr, ich bin nicht werdig) and based on today’s Gospel text and on Matthew 11:28. That too was a kind of meditatio.
O Lord, I am not worthy
That Thou should’st come to me,
But speak the words of comfort,
My spirit healed shall be.
Oh, come, all you who labor
In sorrow and in pain,
Come, eat This Bread from heaven;
Thy peace and strength regain.
Soon, with the corrected and revised translation of the Mass, we will be using a text faithful to the Latin of the Roman Missal and closer to the words of the centurion: “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 yet another example of the lectio divina of the Church. The Church, hearing the centurion’s words, repeats them, and in repeating them comes to make them her own prayer at the moment of Holy Communion. She discerns in them just the right dispositions for the reception of Holy Communion: humility, faith, confidence, and the desire to be inwardly healed and saved from “the point of death” (Lk 7:2).