“Lord, I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” (comes from Matthew 8:8)
At Mass each Sunday, Catholics recite this phrase before going up to the communion table. It is a humbling phrase that I am sure many have different thoughts on. Even in my Catholic prep classes (RCIA) I can remember a woman leader saying – I don’t like saying that I am not worthy, because I am worthy. That got me scratching my head. Just what are we saying when we recite those words from Matthew?
Those words are uttered every week, and I am not sure there is a clear understanding of what is being said. Because it isn’t to make you feel bad about being unworthy – it is meant to re-center your focus from yourselves to Christ.
In today’s world, we often try to fill ourselves with worthiness from “things.” Those things look different for all of us. Sometimes we allow others to make us feel worthy. Sometimes we allow money to make us feel worthy. Sometimes we allow social media to make us feel worthy. All these things can have the opposite affect too. They can also make us feel very unworthy at the snap of a finger.
On the other hand, Jesus never makes us feel unworthy. He reminds us that He loves us right where we are – even when we feel unworthy of it. In no way are those weekly words to make you feel unworthy – only we can do that to ourselves.
Right out of scripture, the bible tells the story of the Centurion in the book of Matthew. He pleads for his servant to be healed. He acknowledges to Jesus that he (the Centurion) is not worthy for Jesus to step into his home, but he is willing to do whatever he can to change that – for his servant’s life. Jesus recognizes this pivotal moment and heals the servant. He never makes the Centurion feel unworthy, and the power of the moment is that a Centurion (one with much strength who commands power over an army of men) would humble himself in front of Jesus. Why? Because he recognizes in order for Jesus to work His miracle, the Centurion must accept this greater strength.
Interesting, how in order to encounter Jesus we must find ourselves humbled. In fact, I cannot remember a time that I didn’t feel humbled when I encountered Jesus. Meeting Jesus when we are full of pride is impossible. Why? Because we are focused on ourselves, not on Christ. So those words uttered each Sunday serve a purpose for all of us. So why do we take offense to this?
In my own struggle with unworthiness, I have found women in particular take offense to these words, and I am sure a lot of it has to do with us trying to find our purpose in the Church.
Many days I wrestle with just what I am suppose to do in this life here on earth. I love being a mother, a wife, and a friend, but there is so much more I yearn to be. I truly desire to spread Christ’s message in a gentle way, accepting people where they are all the while lifting up women so they see their potential to witness the Gospel.
The problem….I honestly do not feel worthy.
I do not even know where to begin.
I am not sure my place, as a woman, in the Church.
I do not feel educated enough in Theology.
So much unworthiness, yet so much desire to do good.
I feel as though I am unworthy. Not because Jesus makes me feel this way, but because I make myself feel this way.
I yearn to be so much more. I have a deep desire to show Christ’s love to the multitude. I want to be a fisher of men. Matthew 4:19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
Many will say in the Catholic Church women serve minor roles. I know this to be untrue, but the truth is: it isn’t easy trying to find the “right” role. The roles are definitely limited for women, and trying to pave a way in, well, it can definitely be difficult. Being a woman does present its problems, but it doesn’t mean we don’t serve a purpose.
The women of the bible should be inspirations and models for all of us trying to find our place in the Church:
Luke 10:38-42 Jesus entrusts Mary and Martha to prepare for a teaching session – we even witness Mary sitting at Jesus feet – Jesus blesses Mary for her desire to learn. Something that was unheard of for a Jew back then.
In Luke 8:1-3, Mary of Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others Jesus traveled with Jesus.
Mark 15:41 “In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”
Acts 16:41 “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
John 19:25 “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
While these are just a few examples of women as disciples in the bible, they are also examples of courage, faith, and trust. They were fishermen – trusted, faith-filled, disciples of Christ.
So, how as women in the Catholic Church, do we find our place? How do we use our voice for Christ? How do we find a way to preach the Gospel and share God’s Word.
We listen at His feet. Humbling ourselves to the fact that while we are fishermen, only Jesus can make us into disciples.
We follow Him on the journey. We walk with Jesus everyday. Spending time with Him will make us understand more clearly what our path is.
We stand with courage to uphold His message. Those women who stood at the cross were strong because they had spent time with Jesus. They had been formed into disciples, and understood that all of this was necessary. Sure because they were women they were overlooked, but that made them even more valuable. They were fishers of men, but even more so they were whisperers of God’s Word. They could do so much for the Message in just a whisper. Their presence was secretly powerful.
So how can I be a whisperer of God’s Word?
How can we as women find our worthiness at the foot of the cross?
How can we fulfill our need to spread the Word of God inside and outside of our own family?
These are questions that I am still pondering in my head, praying for guidance on, and reading texts to help me discern. I do not think I am alone. In fact I am sure there are many just like me in the Church with a deep desire to share the faith with others. A deep desire to gather and support each other on this earthly journey. A deep desire to help each other raise families, be loving wives, and minister God’s Word to the multitudes.
Let’s find a way to journey together. Let’s be Whisperers of God’s Word.