Lord, I’m Not Worthy

At the Holy Mass a perpetual, thanksgiving sacrifice is offered to God at the hands of the priest which we assist at in Mass through worship and adoration. During the Liturgy, we encounter Christ in a mystical, realistic sense. The mere thought of the second person of the Trinity, Christ, coming to us in the form of bread and wine is beyond our comprehension. This is a physical occurrence. He becomes physically present to those in attendance.

What is noteworthy about our presence being along side the Real Presence is that in the Old Testament, the people of God could not come face to face with God. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies once a year, speak the divine name of God in His presence and do so without keeling over. You or I would never have been able to do that. We are not worthy.

If the Hebrew people, God’s first chosen people, were not worthy to be in His presence, then his new covenant family, Catholic Christians, aren’t worthy either. Thankfully now God in His bountiful love can make us worthy, not because of our own merit, but through the sacrament of baptism we enter God’s covenant family. We are allowed present ourselves at Mass in the physical presence of Christ, God, under the veil of the Eucharist.

The state of our soul determines our worthiness, that being whether or not we should approach Jesus in Holy Communion and receive Him.

In the parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:2-14), the first group of people invited to the king’s wedding feast would not come, some even killed the king’s servants. Finally the king’s servants searched for those, good and bad, to attend the banquet. One person in particular showed up without a wedding garment and was bound up and cast out. This person was unprepared and unworthy to attend. The wedding garment was essential to obtain admission to a wedding banquet.

The fitting attire for a wedding as well as at Mass is a sign of respect, but in the parable mentioned, it’s not so much what the person was wearing is as important as his preparation.

We must prepare our souls for attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Mass is a foretaste of the Heavenly Wedding Feast. Christ, the bridegroom, and the Church, His bride. If we show up to Mass unprepared by not being in the state of grace we are henceforth unworthy to obtain the Eucharist at Holy Communion.

If the Eucharist was merely symbolic then yes, anyone can deem themselves worthy on their own account to receive Him. But Jesus made perfectly clear in the bread of life discourse (John 6:51-59) and at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20, Mark 14:22-24) that the Eucharist is really and truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.

Saint Paul reaffirms this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

“And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” –1 Corinthians 11:24-26

Paul then explains what happens if one consumes the Eucharist unworthily.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” –1 Corinthians 11:27-29

The Catholic Church is not a bully by refusing people to receive Holy Communion with mortal sin on their soul. Rather it safeguards and protects people from falling into further grave sin. It would be sacrilege to receive the Eucharist outside of the state of grace.

Paul emphasizes that before receiving the Eucharist we must first examine ourselves to determine whether or not we are worthy. An examination of conscience may be in order to take inventory of any possible serious stain of sin, especially mortal sin, since mortal sin cuts us off from the covenant family of God. Repenting of serious sins through the sacrament of Penance brings us back into God’s fold, united once again. Discernment in St. Paul’s case refers to whether one is worthy to receive the Eucharist. It is of the utmost importance to repent of grave sins in order to receive Communion. Best safe than sorry.

There are times people may still feel unworthy to receive the Eucharist even in the state of grace. Venial sins can cumulate and the weight can be unbearable causing an unworthy reaction. It is perfectly acceptable to go up for a blessing, or “spiritual Communion.”

The Eucharist is not a Catholic privilege, it is an opportunity to humble ourselves to be in the presence of the Eucharistic sacrifice being offered to God. In lieu of trying to make ourselves worthy to receive the Eucharist, it’s an opportunity to leave the worthiness up to God. It gives God the opportunity to lift us up to Him. We shan’t not simplify Liturgy to a mere human level, rather, yearn for God to guide us to the Eucharist. Humility and grace opens the door for God to allow us to receive Him.

“Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.” (Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; by only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.)

by John Connor

Related articles:
Beyond Just a Meal
Liturgy You Deserve
Why I Love Traditional Catholicism

Welcome to the Masquerade

The Roman Empire was a hostile environment for Christians prior to its tolerance by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Even when the Romans allowed Christians to freely practice Catholicism there was still a taste of disdain between Catholics and pagans.

To be a Catholic in the first three centuries, prior to its tolerance, meant your life was on the line. Where as today if you publicly declare devout Catholicity, you may get mocked or ridiculed for believing that life begins at conception, or that marriage is between one man and one woman. You may even get bantered for being too traditional or orthodox. Sure there may be some jeering here and there, but for the early Christians you could be martyred for publicly proclaiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Some people were content to closet their faith and wear masks. Not physical masks, but spiritual, in order to avoid martyrdom. While other Catholics chose not to hide behind a mask. They chose to live and share their faith openly knowing full well it may cost them their life, and were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to preach the truth.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6

Christ is Truth. To be a Catholic, a Christian, we are called to live truth, and to proclaim that truth to others, whether it be family, friends, or strangers. Professing the truth isn’t easy when there’s hostility in the air. Truth is also rigid. It is objective rather than subjective. But we need structure such as the Latin Mass. It focuses our attention on truth. Christ never said it was going to be easy, but He promised everlasting life in heaven if we endure.

The majority of the apostles were martyred for proclaiming the Truth of Catholicism, except for the apostle John who was exiled on the island of Patmos. Many early Christians freely gave up their lives for the faith. They did not wear (spiritual) masks. They did not hide. They openly shared the faith with others. Some may assert, “yes but they were followers of Christ,” which is true, but we too are called to be followers of Christ, to be disciples. That is what it means to be a Catholic. We do not hide from Truth. We affirm Truth. We profess Truth every Mass when we say the Credo.

In every age there has been a masquerade. Some Catholics choose to don their spiritual masks, losing sight of being a witness that attests to the true Catholic faith. While others chose to live authentic traditional Catholic lives publicly. Not afraid to shout from the rooftops that they adore Christ in traditional Catholicism and all the teachings of the Church.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” –John 10:10

Christ promised us everlasting life. That begins here and now by cooperating, living, and sharing the beauty of traditional Catholicism with others, and to affirm all the teachings of the Church.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” –1 Peter 2:21

We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). As Catholics we are to set the example of Christian Truth to others, to lead and to teach just as Christ did. That means we must not mask what is true and authentic when it comes to Christ or Catholicism.

Everything that occurs within the Body of Christ effects you and I, whether directly and indirectly. This goes for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of the human person, and the sanctity of gender–masculine men and feminine women.

The masquerade is here and now. We are among wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), but Christ promised us that if we endure to the end we’ll have everlasting life. Sitting at the Heavenly banquet with Him. It is not too late. It’s never too late to change hearts. We should pray for others that their masks come off. You may know people who claim to be Catholic but don’t necessarily agree with or outwardly live the faith. There will always be to some level a masquerade in the Church, but with authentic traditional Catholicism there is hope. Thankfully more and more Catholics are finding the beauty and Truth in traditional Catholicism.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” –John 8:32

by John Connor

Do We Really Need Advent?

Recently I visited a 4th grade CCE (Continuing Christian Education) class to teach the kids about Advent. “Who can mention the seasons of the Church,” I asked. Eagerly, the kids raised their hands. “Summer,” the first kid said. “No.” I replied, pointing to another kid. “Winter,” another kid quickly blotted. I turned to another kid, expecting a good answer this time. “Spring,” was his answer. Then I knew that I had to lower my expectations. “I mean the seasons of the Church year,” I explained. At that point, some of the kids gave me the “what is he talking about” look.

Eventually, they mentioned Lent and Easter. But they had a very poor understanding of Advent. Then I realized that for these kids, and many kids, and even adults, the season of Advent is like the “appetizer” which you can skip, depending on how hungry you are. Everyone who is really hungry is looking forward to the main meal – Christmas. Worse still, the over commercialization of Christmas, seems to make Advent less appreciated, and more negligible. But is Advent just an appetizer? If yes, why does the Church devote so much time and energy in celebrating these four weeks before Christmas, and how relevant is the season of Advent?

Advent (Lat. adventus) means arrival. The question is whose arrival? When you hear songs like “Oh! You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, Cause I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town!,” it seems that we are preparing for the arrival of Santa Clause and not Jesus Christ, the Savior. I call those who put too much emphasis on Santa Claus and shopping, “Santaholics.” These are not just the kids, but adults as well. Some would rather say “Happy Holidays” than “Merry Christmas.” It is really difficult to tell what a good number of people celebrate during Christmas. That raises the question: when people are preparing, what are they preparing for? How are they preparing?

Advent is for those who are preparing for the arrival (birth) of Jesus Christ on Christmas day. The four-week period of Advent emphasizes penitence and joyful expectation. Different parishes have different events scheduled. They include penance services, in addition to regular confession times. There is also communal adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Advent season also encourages works of charity and mercy. The color purple is the liturgical color for the season to mark the penitential nature of the season. Floral decorations are used in moderation. The organ and other musical instruments are also used in moderation. The “Gloria” is omitted during Mass. The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday. The color rose is used at the liturgical color to expresses a joyful note of anticipation for the coming of the Savior. All these are done to suit the character of the season. Advent emphasizes the first coming of Jesus as Savior and Redeemer, and His second coming in glory as Lord and Judge. Therefore Christ himself has instructed us on how to prepare for his coming by saying, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk 13:33). Clearly, there is more to preparing for Christmas than knowing the date and shopping for it.

Scripture tells us how Jesus prepared for His coming: “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance …” (Phil 2:7) The self-emptying, taking the form of a slave, and then coming in human likeness, all describe elaborate preparation. If the Lord did such elaborate preparation for His coming, why would He find us unprepared when he arrives? Material preparation is very important, no doubt. But moral and spiritual preparation is much more important. Otherwise we would be like those described thus: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave power to become children of God ” (Jn 1:11-12)

Advent is to Christmas what John the Baptist is to Jesus – preparation for the real thing. But not just in the sense of an “appetizer,” but in a more profound and meaningful way. He declares: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Jn 1:23).

One of the titles of Jesus Christ is “Emmanuel” – God is with us. God desires to be, not just with us, but in us, in our hearts. “It is by faith that he dwells in our hearts, in our memory, our intellect and penetrates even into our imagination. What concept could man have of God if he did not first fashion an image of him in his heart?” –Saint Bernard.

It is only by God’s grace that we can fully utilize the great opportunity provided by the season of Advent. We need the wisdom, courage and humility to know and to do what it takes to prepare for the coming of Christ. In the words of St. Anselm, we pray to God: “Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me.” This is one of the main reasons why I would answer: Yes, we really need the season of Advent.

by
Rev. Augustine Uchenna Ariwaodo
Parochial Vicar, St. Mary’s Catholic Center
College Station, Texas