August 9, 2019

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

What would Jesus find under your roof? Leaks or love?

Kimberly PohoveyA few years back, I was working at a parish when the new Roman Missal translations were being introduced. As the parish marketing director, it was part of my job to communicate these changes to the congregation.

The associate pastor and I met regularly to decipher the changes as they were released and plot a strategy for communicating the changes and the meaning behind them. Knowing that change seldom comes easily, we often joked that the changes might go over more like a “missile” than the “missal.” Nevertheless, we trudged forward. At first, even I had trouble embracing the need for new language like “consubstantial” and “dewfall.”

Fast forward a few years and this language, that at one time seemed foreign, has simply become part of our vernacular.  While some word substitutions here and there seemed semantic to me, there is one change that has had a profound impact on my worship experience. It is the final exclamation of the eucharistic prayer in which we proclaim, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

I must admit that the first time I heard this new translation, I, like most I assume, thought it was strange to be talking about roofs. What did that have to do with what is in my heart? At first, it was simply words I awkwardly recited from the prayer card we were handed at Mass from which to learn the new revisions. I didn’t know its origin. However, in time, I came to a deeper appreciation of this prayer.

It comes directly from Scripture. In chapter 7 of Luke’s Gospel, the Roman centurion sends some Jewish elders to implore Jesus to heal his servant, whom the centurion obviously loves. When Jesus heads toward the man’s home, the centurion instructs the elders to tell him not to bother coming all the way to the house because he is not worthy that Jesus should enter under his roof.  He is so humble and his faith in Jesus so great that he knows Jesus need only say the word and his servant will be healed.

When I would recite the former prayer we would say at this point during Mass, I recall focusing on my “unworthiness.” Of course I’m not worthy to receive this amazing gift of Jesus’ sacrifice of his life for me. But honestly, my thoughts never went much further. I bowed my head, noted that I was unworthy and then moved forward to receive Communion.

After some time repeating the words of the new prayer, I began to contemplate the meaning of the “roof” image. I found myself imagining Jesus entering under my roof, looking up, and what would he see? Would he find a sturdy roof? One well-constructed of strong material, built to withstand any storm? That was my hope. But if I wanted to be completely honest, I had to admit he would probably be gazing up at a roof dotted with holes allowing all the leaks of my sins to easily fall through.

This image of the roof has become my weekly examination of conscience.  Now when I say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” I think back on the prior days to the times I have failed to act as God expected.

I unnecessarily criticized my son in a harsh tone. Drip. Knowing I’m overweight and out of shape, I went the whole week without exercise or healthy diet, disregarding this gift of a body God gave me. Drip, drip. I failed to love and appreciate my husband as he deserves. Yet another drip. I resisted the call to volunteer for, you name it—the homeless, the poor, the sick and elderly, all the least of these Jesus asked me to take care of—instead telling myself I’m just too busy. Drip, drip, drip.

In no time, I’m standing underneath my leaky roof, wet and ashamed.

As I squint upward, drops landing in my eyes, I envision Jesus climbing a ladder. Among all the names he is known by, I add “roofer” to the list. He carefully stops the drips, covering each of my sins with new shingles. And amazingly, although I am unworthy, he still invites me to his table. He fixes my leaks and indeed, my soul is healed.

What would Jesus find under your roof?

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of mission advancement for Archdiocesan Education Initiatives.)

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