I recently stumbled upon this article from Huffington Post written by Christine Horner. I found the thoughts she shared a bit shocking and felt compelled to write this response.
We have the same mission. We want the same thing for others. It seems to me that both you and I have a great desire to bring healing to this hurting world. We both want people to see their true worth and dignity and realize that the improper understanding of the value of human persons is part of what perpetuates the violence and crisis of people feeling disconnected, powerless, and undervalued in the world today.
However, we differ in your opinion that “millions of Christians verbally declare one of the most destructive phrases in human history” when they proclaim their unworthiness before God during the fourth elevation of the Eucharist in the Holy Mass, and that the phrase, “Lord I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof”, plays a role in human suffering. It’s like saying that eating healthy and exercising causes disease and sickness. In fact, for the Christian to declare his or her unworthiness during the highest point of the Christian life puts the person in the proper perspective, allowing him or her to see reality as it is, as they receive the Triune God in the Eucharist.
And that is really the point of this statement. It is a declaration of dependance on the One Who not only created time, space and gave us life, but also sent His Son to redeem us for lasting peace and happiness. With this phrase we are acknowledging that we do not simply get a trophy merely for showing up to Mass, but that Jesus is bringing Himself to us and saying “the Word” in order that we be healed and are worthy. It is through His sacrifice, which the Catechism tells us in paragraph 1366 that is made-present in the Mass, that makes us worthy.
Furthermore, in your insistence that this phrase is toxic, you have taken it out of context, removing it from its environment where it lives within not just the Mass, but the entire Tradition of the Faith that tells us the whole story of the fall of humankind and its effect of sin, our Salvation brought about through Jesus, and the Church He left behind to continue to heal us and bring us closer to Him. All of this tells us that Jesus makes us worthy, Jesus takes away our sin through His work on the cross and that our ‘yes’, which is partly a recognition of our need for God, allows us to be in communion. To utter this phrase is simply an admission to Jesus that we are able to receive Him because of Him and His work.
This recognition of Christ’s power and goodness is similarly made by the Centurion in Matthew 8, as you mentioned. In this time of “pre-salvation”, the soldier was a pagan, but I would not say he was ignorant as you did. He went to Jesus and believed that Jesus needed only to speak to heal his servant. Jesus spoke, the servant was healed, all through the manifestation of faith within the soldier.
When we say this phrase from the heart, we too are giving voice to our Faith in Jesus. In the Christian life, no good act goes unnoticed by Him who looks upon us as He is held in the hands of the priest. The Son of God was present at the beginning of time and at every moment of our lives. From the moment of the Incarnation, He is fully human and fully divine. We are creatures, mere men, who owe everything to Him. Each breath, each heartbeat, every array of beauty we enjoy. With true humility, we recognize these gifts and return to the Lord to seek communion with Him.
In our fallen human nature, we sin, turn from God and hurt our communion, which hurts our souls. In this way, we are unworthy, but God is quick to make us worthy through His grace. Our souls need healing from a God who never sins, is always Good. He revealed to us through St. James, “ Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you” and “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
God is all-powerful and it is only through Him that we will receive the healing we seek, along with the peace, the joy, and rest from our burdens. If we recognize this and continue to go to Him humbly requesting His help, He will help us in ways we might not always fully understand.
I leave you with this insightful and poetic exposition of the passage from St. James cited above, from St. Alphonsus Liguori who instructs us,
“Prayer must be humble: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Here St. James tells us that God does not listen to the prayers of the proud, but resists them; while, on the other hand, he is always ready to hear the prayers of the humble: The prayer of the man that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds, . . . and he will not depart till the Most High behold. The prayer of an humble soul at once penetrates the heavens and presents itself before the throne of God, and will not depart thence till God regards it and listens to it. However sinful such a soul may be, God can never despise a heart that repents of its sins, and humbles itself: A contrite and humbled heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”
May our God bless you and send you His peace!