Unworthy Yet Dignified by God

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The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr Paulino Belamedi SVD -St Jude Catholic School, Manila

Monday 24th Week in Ordinary Time

Just before communion, we say the following prayer: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

Clearly, it was derived from today’s Gospel: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof… but say the word and let my servant be healed” (Luke 7:6-7) or, as it reads in Matthew’s version, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

What do we mean when we say, “I am not worthy?” Somebody commented that “One of the biggest distractions we face as humans is when we hold on to unworthiness” and that “If you believe yourself unworthy, do you think you will attain anything beyond what you believe you deserve?” (Carly Benson, Let Go of your Unworthiness, November 26, 2012).

The question suggests that unworthiness is a rather hopeless state of being, and that if we are to make something meaningful out of life, we need to transcend it. But how?

On Ash Wednesday, the imposition of the ashes is accompanied by the priest uttering the following ancient formula: “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return”(cf. Genesis 3:19).

Perhaps because it sounds so negative and materialistic, the Church in Vatican II provided a more positive alternative: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

But this pile of dust does not remain just a pile of worthless and lifeless dust. As that pinch of Holy Wednesday ash is placed on our foreheads in the shape of the cross, we are reminded that the worthless dust has been dignified by God, pronounced worthy by the Word made flesh. To recognize this is humility.

St. Paul tells us that we have absolutely no claim to worthiness (cf. Philippians 3:9). By ourselves, apart from God, we are nothing and deserve nothing (cf. John 15:5), but by grace, we have been redeemed and rendered deserving of God’s promises – fruitfulness and abundance of life to all those who abide in him.

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