Being Made Worthy

13 June 2007 Wednesday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time
2 Cor 3, 4-11, Matthew 5, 17-19

The Gospel tells us that Jesus came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Meaning, Jesus came to bring out the real meaning of the law. You see, the scribes and the Pharisees interpreted the Law of Moses into many rules and regulations, that one can’t see the forest because of the trees. The Ten Commandments is about reverence — the reverence we have for God and our neighbor. Jesus summarized it as “Love of God and Love of Neighbor”. This is the principle behind the law. Thus, if we give more importance to rituals, but forget to forgive those who have hurt us, then, we miss the point. God said, “It is not sacrifice I want, but mercy.” If we are legalistic, but forget to love, then we also miss the principle of reverence: the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. If our lives revolve around prohibitions (Don’t do this; Don’t do that), but does not instruct or explain it, then we also miss the point of the prohibitions.

Let us take the case of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. These are laypersons who help distribute Holy Communion during Mass. They are called extraordinary ministers because the ‘ordinary’ ministers are bishops, priests, and deacons. The Church document, Redemptionis Sacramentum, said that the creation of these ministers was “for those instances where there are not enough ordinary ministers to distribute Holy Communion.” Therefore, with the approval of the Church, to receive Holy Communion from them is legitimate.

However, there are people who do not receive communion from them for the reason that they are unworthy of their service. Many of these ministers are lay people from the community. On one hand, it is true that their function is secondary from the ordinary ministers, but on the other hand, who, even among priests, is worthy to render service to God? We, priests, are sinners too.

The first reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians gives us an insight to this question: if bishops, priests, deacons who are ordained are also sinners, and thus, like many extraordinary ministers of communion, are unworthy, what or who makes us worthy? Paul said, “Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything that come from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of Spirit… the Spirit gives life.” Therefore, it is God who made all us worthy of such great service. It is not of our power to choose who is worthy or who is not. In fact, many of us priests — including myself — ask the question over and over again, “Why me, Lord? You know who I am.”

In the end, what matters is that we accord respect and reverence first to God who chose His servant to preside at mass, or to assist it; and second, to our fellow servants, who, like everyone else, knows his unworthiness. And that is why, many of us consider serving God a great honor and privilege. We do not deserve it, but we were chosen. That is why we say before communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed” — I shall be made worthy to have You, to love You, to serve You.”

*Fr. Lester Maramara SJ, presiding at the mass for Ateneo de Davao faculty.

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