Throughout Advent, our weekly ePrayers include a special series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings. This reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent is from Unbound preacher Father David Noone.
We all have our favorite scripture verses, but there are also verses I find troubling. One of them happens to be in the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, the verse that reads, “… but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”
My problem is with that sense of “unworthiness.” I grew up believing I was “unworthy,” not because I experienced that about myself, but because I was taught it. In fact, Christianity seems to have gone out of its way to emphasize our “unworthiness.”
But, at some point, I began to wonder if that word “unworthy” applied to me, or to any of us. The catechism I grew up with asks, “Why did God make me?” It responds, “… to know, love and serve him. …” If God made me to love him, he also made me to share his love with me. That’s what love does; it wants and needs to love. In some wonderfully mysterious way, and despite all our flaws and brokenness, God sees us as worthy of his love!
Earlier this year, I had a conversation with an Unbound sponsor. Around 13, her life took a downward turn until, eventually, heroin took it over. She considered seeking help in the Catholic Church she grew up in, but she remembered being taught there that God gets angry with people who screw up their lives. Instead she accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a non-denominational Christian Church.
There she was assured that, no matter how messed up her life, she was still worthy of God’s love. Working with this awareness, the young woman found her way to sobriety. Later, she returned to Catholicism out of a strong conviction that to stay sober she needed the Eucharist. So for the past several months she has attended Mass and received Communion daily.
As our conversation ended, I was surprised to learn that she is sponsoring a number of Unbound children and was about to embark on an Unbound Awareness Trip to meet them. When I asked how she could afford the sponsorships, she told me that, when addicted, drugs and alcohol had cost her far more and it was time to use those funds to do good.
Every weekend, I look at the children and elders whose pictures are displayed on the folders lying on the sponsorship tables of the parish I happen to be in. I see them, whatever their story or situation, as simply people worthy of God’s love and ours. And when a parishioner decides to take a folder and sponsor the person pictured, he or she is helping God express his love in the life of that person in a very concrete and special way.
“Lord, I am not worthy?” We may be flawed and broken, but we are not unworthy. God’s love makes it so.
Father, when we look at our lives and see how fragmentary everything is, how many plans have gone undone, and all the reasons we have to be embarrassed and ashamed, help us to realize that there has not been a minute in any day when we have not been embraced by your love. Amen.
— Inspired by the words of Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)