Every time we are at mass, before we go forward to receive communion, we quote the centurion,
Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof...
But how much do we really believe in our unworthiness.
Those of us who are older love to complain about the millennials and their belief that they are all beautiful unique little snowflakes. We forget that they did not invent the notion, they got it from the generations before them.
In the Catholic Church we have our own snowflakes. You can spot them by their mantra, "How dare some priest tell me I shouldn't go to communion?" The concept of unworthiness, or unworthy reception of a sacrament is unimaginable. The sad thing is that much of h time they are completely unaware of the hubris that their attitude represents.
In today's gospel Jesus raises the bar to, what seems to be, an impossible level.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me
is not worthy of me.
We need to keep in mind that Greek has a variety of words for love. The verb used in Matthew's gospel for love is phileo. Jesus is making it clear that if we hope to be worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven we must strive for a higher form of love, a love not bound to human relationships, agape.
The problem is that we cannot achieve this love on our own. It is only with the assistance of God's grace that we can even hope to move from phileo to agapeo. And Jesus in the statement above provides at least one clear indicator of the presence of agape, the willingness to take up the cross and carry it. To be worthy of Jesus, to be worthy of the kingdom we must posses the supernatural love that is willing to suffer and sacrifice not simply for loved ones but for others, strangers, people we might tend to judge.
How do we get there? The initial movement is always God's. God calls us, God offers the grace to us, but we have to respond. We must allow our merely human love to be transformed, and that transformed love must bear fruit in our everyday words and actions. Or else, we are not worthy of Jesus or his kingdom.
Thankfully, when we fall into a truly unworthy state we have the sacrament of penance/reconciliation to bring us back, to heal our wounded relationship with God.
In the opening prayer for today's mass, we asked:
that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error
but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.
May we have courage to stand in the bright light of truth about our own lives, and so by God's grace be made worthy to be called disciples of the one Lord Jesus Christ.