Recently, a friend related a story to me, of her sister, who seems to always feel anxious and a bit “upset” with God, during a portion of the Eucharistic Liturgy.
She said that when the priest raises the Body and Blood of Our Lord and proclaims, “Behold, this is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, happy are those who are called”, etc… and we, the congregation respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, that she wants to cry out, “But, I’m trying!”
Trying to “be worthy” is the point she is making. She seems to feel upset that we are humbled before God’s Eucharistic Presence, enough to state our unworthiness, before Him, and ask for His healing.
I was very perplexed by this and pondered it for some time. I couldn’t relate to feeling resentful or angry at Jesus during Consecration and thereafter, for I had only ever felt overwhelming gratitude, humility, and love.
Then, it hit me. When my friend asked how it was that her sister could feel the compulsion to yell “But, I’m trying!” to God ,each time she says “Lord, I am not worthy”…I responded, “That’s where she is making her mistake in the first place”.
“What do you mean?” asked my friend.
“Well,” I said, “We have never been, are never, and will never, ever be *worthy*. Therefore, “trying” to be is an exercise in futility, and it would benefit us and help your sister, most likely, if we can move toward accepting the fact that we can try-til-the-cows-come-home and we will never be *worthy*. Instead, it takes a full surrender, in that moment, to admit to God that we are not worthy for Him to enter under our roofs, but, that, in faith, with hope and trust and thanksgiving, we believe that He needs only to say the word and we are healed. Jesus Christ is worthy and Jesus Christ comes to us in the Eucharist so that we may partake of His *worthiness* and, in Him, through Him, and with Him, become *worthy*.”
When we go through life thinking that our purpose is to try to be worthy, we are failing from the starting gate.
We will never succeed. We will always drop the ball. We will never meet our own standards, or those of anyone else, much less God…for nothing we do, or say, or become, can ever make us worthy. Trying to be is simply running a perpetual treadmill. It will never happen.
Jesus is the only one who has ever been worthy, who will ever be worthy.
This is why His Eucharistic Presence is such a gift to us. He is saying, “It’s ok that you are not worthy. You, in your faith and love, have said that you believe in my worth and that you believe my Father’s word can heal you, and so I am coming to you now, right here, on this altar, to make you worthy before my Father, for when you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you will have eternal life in you”.
“You see?” I told my friend. “Your sister must first admit that she can try for the rest her life and she’ll never be worthy. If she would simply stop trying and live her life loving and thanking God for accepting her in her UNworthiness, she’d feel a lot better.”
This morning, our pastor brought holy Communion to my daughter, who is ill with Mononucleosis. We all knelt on the living room floor and prayed together. When I heard my daughter respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed,” I was overcome; for we were living the words of that prayer in the most literal sense. Jesus truly had entered under our roof! He was here, in our home, physically present among us; not just spiritually.
In that moment, I knew how unworthy I was, and yet, he humbled us with his presence. We did not have to “try” to be worthy, we only had to believe that his worthiness would heal us.
And, we do believe.
Copyright 2012 Judy Dudich