One of the things that drew me to St. Stan’s was Father Clay’s commitment to neutralizing the “Catholic Guilt” we may have grown up with and reframing God’s intentions as loving. I especially loved how he changed “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed” to “Jesus you love me and accept me with my faults and sins. Only say the word and my soul will be healed.” That pivot from judge to healer was really important to me, and the words he used in the liturgy mattered so much.
Sometime around 2012 the Church started using a new translation of the liturgy, and Father Clay used the language they provided. That included going back to the traditional “I am not worthy…” My small act of subversion has been not to say that part, just to stay silent until “Only say the word…” In my head I remind myself of our old way – “Jesus you love and accept me…”
I found this homily from 2013 where Father Clay examines the “I am not worthy” phrase. I wanted to share it now in case anyone needed a reframe on worthiness. Also, this morning I met with an old colleague and explained this blog -and this language was the most potent example I had to show the pivot Father Clay has helped me make.
Finally, there could be a problem when we say, “Lord, I am not worthy.” We might think, I am not worthy in comparison to somebody else, or, I am no good, I am not deserving of Eucharist. Being unworthy is not what this is all about. We have to go so much deeper, Instead, we can think, I am not worthy to receive you, but all the love that comes to me I the Eucharist comes through Jesus in many ways that God comes to me, and all this love is not earned. We don’t have to earn it. It is just there.
Why does God love us? That’s just what Love does, not because it is earned. So please, when you say, “Lord, I am not worthy,” don’t compare yourself with some ideal or with somebody else. Just say, I am a frail, ordinary human being, and God loves me. That is what we really need to say.
We can pray about this. Just sit back and relax. Close your eyes and keep your back straight. Breathe slowly and deeply, slowly and deeply. Let the cares, the worries, the fears, the hates, the angers, the vengeance, the cruelty, the bitterness, loneliness, despair and depression fall away.
We are surrounded by Love, the love we name God. That love holds us, embraces us, cradles us, looks at us tenderly and with compassion. That love lives deep within our souls and bubbles up with powerful, healing energy.
Gracious Love, help us to experience and believe the love that you are, a love that is for everyone and everything, a love that has no strings and no conditions, an infinite love that is compassionate and tender, a love that is completely understanding.
Loving God, sometimes we are scared to open our hearts, souls, and lives to you because we are afraid of what you might ask. Loving God, if we can only remember that the only thing you ask is what is really and truly good for us, makes us happy, and helps us to me become more loving and happy people. God, we are scared because we like to be in control. When we surrender, it is safe to surrender to you, for you love us more than we love ourselves.
And so, Loving God, as much as we can, we surrender to you everything inside of us, all the things in our lives – everything: our sins, our virtues, our trials, discouragements, handicaps, our abandonments, all of our fears. We surrender them to you so you can enter us more and more deeply, to change us, and to transform us in any way that you choose.
God bless you.
From the homily “Eucharist” in Awesome Love by Father John Clay, ©2013