Today’s blog explores the topic of worthiness – the fine line between self-loathing and humility.
Lord, I am Not Worthy to Receive You
Every Sunday, (or anytime attending mass) just before the reception of Holy Eucharist (communion), all Catholics bow their heads, strike their breast and say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” As a child, I understood this part of the ritual to be a moment in which we acknowledged our sinfulness, our depravity, our complete unworthiness of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice, and recognize that even though we are woeful sinners, God can somehow make us worthy of receiving HIS (God, to me, was still the old man in the sky at that time) grace through the Eucharist. But even reciting these words did not erase the lingering doubt in the back of my mind that we were still completely unworthy. I have a sense that this is how many (if not most) Catholics understand this phrase along with its ritual actions.
Only Say the Word and I Shall be Healed
Then something amazing happened. As I grew up and found the tools through which I could be open to discovering, exploring, cultivating and nurturing a deeply intimate, expansive and personal relationship with that which I call God, I found that the mass and all its trappings began to be transformed. As I came to know God through prayerful contemplation of scripture, through my life experiences, through nature, through signs and wonders, in Jesus and his ministry, in the lives of the saints (especially: Mary Magdalene, Bernadette, Francis, Clare, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Joan of Arc), I came to understand that God is not the scary, vengeful, judgmental, punitive god that so many want us to believe in. Instead, I found a God that is loving, infinite, compassionate, just, merciful, kind, joyful, peaceful and forgiving. I found a God that loves us beyond what we could possibly imagine and is the very nature of Love itself and as this love, seeks to be known in and through us. God was really cool and no longer the scary old man in the sky with clipboard in hand marking off if we are naughty or nice. The fear-based images of God were erased from my consciousness and replaced with nothing but love. How cool is that?!
From Self-Loathing to Awe-filled Wonder and Humility
So, back to the “Lord I am not worthy” stuff. As my images of God became transformed, so did my experience of the mass. The mass was no longer the sacrificial banquet in which we celebrated Jesus’ death (and I do mean, “celebrated”), and hung our heads in shame over the sins that made his horrific execution by crucifixion necessary. Instead, the mass became a celebration of the wonders of God and the amazing teachings of Jesus and the new life that he came to reveal for all of humankind – a life rooted in the passionate love of God and the contentment and joy that are our reward when we allow ourselves to be open to this love. In attending the mass, I was reminded over and over and over that “we are an Easter people.” The focus moved from sacrifice and death to new life. Amen! While this transformation was taking place, so too was the experience of the Eucharist changed for me. No longer was I compelled to hang my head in shame over my unworthiness of the Eucharist, instead, I raised my eyes in awe-filled wonder at the miracle of God’s love and the promise of new life. Receiving Holy Communion became a ritual through which I could humbly say, “God you are so awesome and I am humbled at the sight of your glory and I know my heart is too small today to contain the fullness of your love, but I know that through your grace I will somehow, someday, know the depth of your love that Jesus knew and be able to reveal that love in our broken world.” It was to this awareness and intention that I was able to say “Amen” when taking the bread and the wine that had become the body and blood of Christ into my hands.
Our Life Experience is the Mass
Now here is the really cool part! Not only was the liturgy of the mass transformed in me through attention to God’s love, but that 1 hour of Sunday mass spilled out into my daily life. No longer was mass contained by the ritual, but my whole life became the celebration of the mass…and everyday I have been invited to see the glory and wonder of God and exclaim, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” And no longer do these words come from a place of unworthiness and self-loathing, but from a place of complete wonder and awe and I frequently wonder, “What did I do to deserve this greatness?” And the terrific answer is NOTHING…..It is simply the abundant outpouring of God’s magnificent love … we simply need to be open to receiving it and offer it a bold and joyous “AMEN!” (meaning, yes!)
How are you open to seeing, knowing, experiencing the magnificent wonder and love of God?
Where are you reluctant to receive the generous outpouring of joy that God intends for you?
How can you say “yes” to all the love that God wants to give you?
Authentic Freedom Ministries