A glance across the magazine racks at the local grocery store checkout counter displays bold headlines such as “Drop one size: lose 8 lbs and keep it off”, “The 1 secret to perfect-fit jeans”, “10 Obesity busting meals”, and of course.... “8 ways to cut 3,000 calories”.
Those promising, but yet demoralizing, headlines for many women just strengthen the sense of self-esteem many are faced with daily.
However, one thing the Catholic Church receives regular darts thrown at is the same accusation. The allegation that the Church forces a sense of low self-esteem and ever present guilt for its members is one many non-Catholics are frequently trying to throw fiery darts at. In order to try and ‘seal up’ their accusatory argument, they misrepresent one of the most precious parts of the Mass.
“Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
The recitation of that priceless and precious Biblical phrase taken from Matthew 8:8 is often glossed over by most during Mass as just another repetition.
But, this is a response to the invitation to “Behold the Lamb of God”.
“Lord I am not worthy,” is more than just a repetition or a response.
It’s based on the Matthew 8 encounter where Jesus tells the centurion that Jesus should go to the man’s house in order that he be able to heal this man’s paralyzed servant.
“As [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, begging him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” [...] Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Mt 8:5-13)”
We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. That makes our fleshly bodies the “roof” of this temple for God.
The proclamation that we are “unworthy” is acknowledging that we, as mere human beings, are unworthy to be such a temple of the holy, perfect, and living God, where God is present spiritually. It is also acknowledging we are even more unworthy, as simple and mere human beings, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ during the Blessed Sacrament as we do in Mass.
However, the Mass…..through this proclamation of “Lord I am not worthy”…reminds us that God makes us worthy to receive the Blessed Sacrament.
Our culture is saturated with the sense that we are to be better, wealthier, more important, more impressive, and have a greater worth than others. We are flooded with ideas of “self-improvement” and “self-motivation”. We are told that having a high self-esteem is essential and things such as violent crimes, rapes, thefts, and murders are all because of a low sense of self-esteem.
Let’s not overlook or run right over the beautiful prayer, the beautiful proclamation we are privileged to let roll off our tongues during the next Mass, when we proclaim, “Lord I am not worthy….but only say the word…”
May it serve as a reminder of how Jesus makes us worthy, and allows an unworthy temple such as that of human beings, to receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament…..a perfect, holy, living God.