Has the Church Changed Scripture?
Question: We say at Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, which comes from Mathew 8:8 — except the word “servant” has been substituted for “soul”. The Church isn’t permitted to change scripture. How did this happen?
Answer: You are quite correct: the Church may not alter the words of scripture when the scriptures are being proclaimed and when homilies are being preached. When the Bible is being quoted in public worship, we are expected to keep to the original text.
Yet the scriptures are also used as inspiration in the composition of prayers and songs. A great many of our hymns have been inspired by scripture, but the words are not always exactly the same. Hymn-writers often borrow from more than one source, combining texts.
This applies also to prayers. Even the first half of the “Hail Mary” departs from scripture by adding in the names of Mary and Jesus to make the prayer more understandable. The same is true for what we say before Communion. The words of the centurion in Matthew 8 could have been rendered as “…and your servant will be healed” or “…and I shall be healed”. We depart from the text in order to make the soldier’s plea our own.
(Fr Thomas Plastow SJ)
This question was asked and answered in the March 2022 issue of The Southern Cross magazine