The Penitent Magdalene ,Titian, 1533, Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
Prior to the most recent liturgical changes, I used to sit in mass during Ecce Agnus Dei, when the priest holds up the consecrated host before communion and announce, “Behold the Lamb of God …” and ponder the proceeding the response, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, only say the word and I shall be healed.” Prior to receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion, I used to hear that prayer and see the woman, who the Gospel of Matthew writes, was hemorrhaging for years. The woman caught a glimpse of Jesus in the streets and thought, “if I could just touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.” Jesus told her,” your faith has healed you.”
I carried that imagine with me mass after mass as I saw myself as a broken woman desperate to grab onto the hem of Jesus’ garments in order for him to heal all the pieces of my heart that were shattered.
Years later, the liturgical changes transformed the words, to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” These words are those of the humble Centurion in Matthew 8:8.
Since receiving the Eucharist for the first time, I now see myself like the Centurion. I cry almost every time we reach this part of the mass because I am not worthy. It is His grace that pulls us out of the muck and mire. When I come forward to receive the Eucharist, I feel humbled, for I am not worthy to receive the body and blood, and yet, it is a gift freely bestowed to me.
One of the women of the Bible I most identify with is Mary Magdalene. Her sins made her notorious among the people. She was marked, “untouchable,” but Jesus saw only her humility. Mary was with sin and yet, there was Jesus right there to pull her out. He called her by name. Mary remained as close to Jesus as the twelve and even at the foot of the cross, there she remained. At the tomb, there she was still. Jesus revealed his resurrected body to her first before anyone else. How privileged she must have felt!
Jesus calls us all by name. Though we are not worthy, it is through Him that we become worthy. We are all holy vessels. And what more, we do not have to be perfect, we just have to be willing to answer Him when he calls us.