A deacon friend asked a devout co-worker if he had ever considered being ordained a deacon. “I’m unworthy of that,” the man replied. Unworthiness was the subject of Wednesday’s Bible sharing group at St. Edmond’s in Rehoboth, Delaware, where I just spent a happy week at the beach.
A lady in the group said she had always felt she needed to be perfect before God could love her. A man said he felt discouraged in his faith because he wasn’t able to come close to the holiness he strives for.
Then someone pointed out what we pray, echoing the Centurion, at every Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.” Do we believe it or not?
A sense of unworthiness is a good thing, because it’s true. But our enemy twists that truth to separate us from God—the original lie from the father of lies. The more we can live the whole truth of our unworthiness in the light of God’s limitless mercy (with emphasis on the mercy!), the more we’re prepared for the attacks that come every day, and especially at death—our enemy’s last chance to convince us to choose hell over heaven!
St. Louis de Montfort countered these attacks on his deathbed—his last words were “In vain do you attack me—I am between Jesus and Mary!” Only the goodness of God could protect him from the fearful memories of his own failings being hurled at him at such a vulnerable moment. Mercy must be our focus, now and always.
St. Paul writes of a God “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Jesus is the Truth. For us, Mercy is the ultimate reality of God and we have met Mercy incarnate.
With the look of love from his two human eyes overflowing from a human heart, mercy is no longer “out there,” but personal and immediate—always there for the asking.
The hard part in accepting mercy, though, is that is involves radical dependence on God—constantly sipping from the “living water” of his mercy. Constantly acknowledging that our deficits are made whole only by Him. The inability to heal ourselves by ourselves seems somehow like we’re doing something wrong. But we need to get over that and make a habit of letting God do the healing and the “making up for” our faults every day. St. Paul reminds us that “power matures in weakness.”
Elizabeth of the Trinity put it this way: “We must descend daily this pathway of the Abyss (the “Deep”) which is God; let us slide down this slope in wholly loving confidence. ‘Deep calls unto deep.’ It is there in the very depths that the divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the Abyss of mercy.”
Image: Jesus Pancreator by Svitozar Nenyuk https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/svitozar-nenyuk.html
Bless you for sharing these wonderful words, Rose! I think that when we continually remind ourselves of Jesus’s many promises to be with us always, that nagging sense of personal unworthiness begins to disappear. He asks us to believe in Him, NOT to be “perfect”. If Jesus loved sinners and tax collectors and so many other totally fallible humans, then why would he not choose us, too? After all, He made Peter the leader of His church, and we all know how completely imperfectly human Peter was!
I had to laugh when you got to the part about Peter. God really does have a sense of humor, so we can enjoy laughing with each other as we make our imperfect way following the perfect way, who is Jesus.
Hi Rose! Yes, we are unworthy and that is precisely the reason we are to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ in the form of the Holy Eucharist as often as possible even everyday.
This journey is a necessary part of our Lord making us perfect IF we allow Him to. He loves us so much that He won’t force Himself on us. We may want to be perfect here or there but He was us to be completely perfect!
One of the most beautiful depictions of Christ I have seen! Thank you.
I’ve never been to Behoboth, Delaware and plan to visit this summer.
It really boils down to our “yes” to letting God’s love in, as you say. Hard to remember sometimes that saying yes is our whole job. :)
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Thank you for this article!!
I sure needed it today. The last few weeks I’ve felt distant from God. I so needed the “Lord, I am not worthy….” We tend to say it so nonchalantly
in our prayer life. Thank God for Sunday Mass!
Just need this reminder this morning. Recently I wake up in the morning and feel the not enough, “darn why did I not do this… yesterday… Should have reacted this way…. forgot to do …..
Mercy is not a free ride… it is a gift of healing and encouragement to go on and try again..
thanks for this weeks post.
The words of the Song of Songs come to mind: ” My love lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.” You are his lovely one!
When God called upon Moses to free the Israelites from slavery Moses replied”Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” Then God proceeded to point out to Moses the resources he already had which could be applied to this unfamiliar task. First God said “I am with you.” Then Moses objected that the Pharaoh would not believe him God told him to throw his staff on the ground. It became a serpent. Moses shied away but God told him to take hold of its tail. It became a staff again. Then Moses objected that he was “slow of speech and tongue.” God says “It is I who will assist you in speaking and will teach you what you are to say.” Then Moses replies “Send someone else!” Then the Lord angers; “Have you not your brother, Aaron the Levite?” Obviously Moses had never seen his brother in that light. Not only did he underestimate himself but his brother as well. God was getting ticked off.
How often have we all thought that way; especially the “If you please, Lord, send someone else!” Part? Not every challenge is like a first parachute jump. We can start by practicing the smaller stuff.
Yes, God, being outside of time, knows He’ll give us the resources we need at the time, but not necessarily before. The first time I read that concept was in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (which I’ve read about six times). He says that in praying for courage, we’re not going to feel a surge of courage — that won’t show up until we need it.