Thursday, August 11, 2016

To Humiliate Ourselves and Proclaim Our Unworthiness Before God is (Apparently) a Bad Thing

As I was perusing random news headlines (again), one ridiculous title caught my eye. Yes, the clickbait worked and I felt less intelligent for even doing so. I need to stop doing this to myself. In any event, the ridiculous headline read as such: Dear Pope Francis, End the Religious Ritual That Devalues Human Life. The sound of the collective rolling of eyes is deafening, no? You can read the whole article at the link above, but the most egregious part of this woman's article is as follows:
"Every single day before communion, millions of Christians verbally declare one of the most destructive phrases in human history... In the Bible, a Centurion soldier relates, 'Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…' (Matthew 8:8)
"Dialogue and constructs that perpetuate 'I am not worthy' are the root of all evil behavior. It is divisiveness personified. By believing we are not worthy, we open the door for the mistreatment of ourselves and the mistreatment of others as we seek to assuage the psychological pain the false belief imparts. The guilt of unworthiness calls for us to judge ourselves and to judge others just as harshly."
The author, Chrisitne Horner is also a self-described "healed ex-Catholic, [and] her religion is love." She is basically a new age pantheist, as seen through her various writings. There are several reasons why this misguided person is absolutely wrong.
Christ and the Centurion- Adam Camerarius
In a comment responding to her article, a Christian pastor (possibly Catholic?) responded"
"You simply do not understand. The phrase is spoken as a sign of humility, not self-denigration. It is spoken to signify the distance between we sinful humans and God. It is a worship moment, not a life statement. And, it certainly does not mean that I think others are unworthy. Sorry you missed the point of it all. But, it did give you a headline on the internet."
The author responded, as did I, but unfortunately her answers were short and she didn't seem to want to take the dialogue very far. This is unfortunate because it's obvious this woman was poorly catechized growing up and it's clear that she needs to be reconciled with the Church and the one, true God. She uses some new age terms (Christ Consciousness, among others) so if you're unfamiliar with these terms, please look them up. You'll see they are entirely incompatible with Christianity. Her words will be in red, and mine in blue:

Dear Rev.,
I do understand. Is there not a better way to do so than through self-denigration? In Matthew 7 Jesus says we are not to judge, that includes ourselves. Beliefs are very powerful as he states in 8:13, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” How about reciting, “Thank you that in remembrance that you are worthy, I am also worthy. I know I am dearly loved.” And you are you… Love, Christine

No, Christine, you do not understand. You are still equating “humility” with “self-denigration”. As Rev. Fischer pointed out above, the two are not necessarily the same. You seem to cherry-pick verses from the Scriptures, and the ones that you do cherry pick, you twist their meanings. But as far as click-bait goes, it worked.

Jesus also says in Matthew 7 (verse 24 specifically) “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”. So yes, we can judge, not in an eternal sense as that belongs to Him alone as He is God; but we can judge others actions, including our own. This is why you might remember seeing “examinations of consciences” from when you professed the Catholic Christian faith. We examine ourselves and make a judgement: we have sinned against God, we’ve hurt that relationship between us by our actions. And by making that examination we petition God for forgiveness so that we may be received back into full communion with Him, and make a firm amendment to not wander from His love again.

You’ve also taken Matthew 8:13 out of context, just as you have the entire passage as it regards to our article. Did you not read what immediately preceded Jesus’ words? The miracle didn’t happen because the centurion was “Creation itself” as you claim all human beings are in accord with the pantheistic reasoning you espouse, but because he had faith in Christ. it was because he had faith that Jesus was sent by God; that Jesus WAS God:

“When Jesus heard him [the centurion], he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Faith in what? Belief in what? The centurion didn’t have this in himself, for he was merely human and humans cannot heal the paralyzed no matter how hard they want it to be so. The centurion’s belief and faith was in Christ Jesus. He believed that Jesus could heal his servant, because He was sent from God… because He WAS God. That’s why the centurion’s faith is extraordinary. Even Jesus’ own countrymen (the Jews) didn’t have faith in Him. This faith, this belief in Jesus, is what made said belief so powerful that it resulted in the healing of the servant. We see similar acts of faith happening throughout the Gospels, but not in the way you have written above, Christine.

I truly lament the fact that you have bought into the pantheistic understanding of God and all the new-age beliefs that come with it. You get some things right in your writings; God is everywhere, but He is a simple being, and is not composed of parts. If God is one with the universe, if they are one in the same, then your god is limited in space since the pantheistic god is “one with the material world”. You left the Catholic Church which proclaims to be the Body of Christ. We are all one in Christ, indeed, but that doesn’t mean we lose ourselves in some ocean and become absorbed into “the One”.
You say that your religion is “love”. How can that be? Love cannot exist without persons. Love is a relationship between two persons. If you don’t believe that God is a person, how can love be there? God is not an immaterial force; He has revealed Himself in three divine Persons. That is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You can’t have a loving relationship with a force; you have a relationship with a person. That’s why through our common baptism that we share, we can call ourselves adopted sons and daughters of God. He loves us as a Daddy, i.e. ABBA!
Lord I Am Not Worthy- James Tissot

I know you have been through many hardships in your life, but you have come to some wrong conclusions about God’s role in our lives. I pray that you come back to know Him as a Person through the Church He founded, and until you do, you won’t be able to realize why your entire article is in error. Your pantheistic beliefs are what keep you from understanding why we say we are not worthy before we receive the Eucharist. In the same way one spouse has deeply hurt the other spouse (damaging the relationship), we beg God’s forgiveness by saying “We are not worthy of this unconditional love you give to us! Look at the things I have done! But if you only say so, I will be healed and reconciled with you”. But as the spouse that unconditionally loves the other spouse does, God says to us when we acknowledge our shortcomings “You are sorry, thus you are forgiven. Come, the banquet is ready. I still love you, and always will love you. Let us commune with each other in love.”

Dear Nick, 

Thank you for your lengthy reply and for your love. I see God everywhere I look. I’ve had out of body experiences and I found God there, too. God is both form and formlessness. God’s love is unconditional. Period. Humans can’t comprehend it so they muck it up with their own interpretations that well fall short of reality. I’ve gone within as Jesus said to do. I found God there and we’ve never stopped communing. Once one resides in a state of unity consciousness (Christ Consciousness) with all that is, all the nonsense rooted in separation consciousness is seen as part of the veil, including ritual. Would you ever tell your child to look into your eyes every single day and tell you he is not worthy? Neither would God. Much love to you. Love, Christine

“Dear Bob, thank you for your lengthy reply and for your love.”

You’re welcome. You certainly are loved, and you are loved as a sister, as as we are both siblings adopted by God through the common baptism we share. Many comments in response to your article have not been made in Christian love, and for that I apologize. We are called to declare the Truth, but we must do so with charity. Sometimes we forget this. I apologize also if my reply here, too, is lengthy; but I believe that dialogue is important, and we must come to understand each other more deeply. I am curious about why you hold your current outlook on God and why you reject the Church today.

“I see God everywhere I look.”

So do I! God is Being itself. God indeed is everywhere in His creation. However, it seems that we understand this much differently. You identify God with created matter. But the fact is, God co-exists with that matter, i.e., the beings that have been created. Much like how a current of electricity occupies the same space as a solid copper wire; it’s obvious that mutual presence does not make the copper wire one with the electricity. God’s presence everywhere doesn’t make created things part of God.

“I’ve had out of body experiences and I found God there, too. God is both form and formlessness.”
I’d love to hear in detail more about your experiences. And I also agree with you that God has form and is yet formlessness. But how do you understand this, Christine? The way Christians the world over understand this, is that God has no body; He is immaterial, unchangeable and pure spirit. However, we know that Jesus, who is God, became incarnate and took the form and nature of a human. This is why Christians everywhere can accurately proclaim that Jesus “is true God and true man”, and since Jesus is God, “He is begotten, not made”, which keeps in line with the fact that God’s nature is unchangeable. Christians have believed this for centuries, that God is formless and pure spirit. But note that God is not a mysterious, impersonal force made of many different components. A “spirit” can also be a person. God’s formlessness (and “form” in Christ Jesus) isn’t a new concept, nor is it foreign to Christian thinking, as you can see in the article here:

“God’s love is unconditional. Period.”

I absolutely agree. What Christian wouldn’t agree with this statement? So who are the people “mucking it up”? Christians? I would argue no. What is the “reality” you speak of? I ask again, if you do not believe that God is a person, how can you have a loving relationship with a non-person?

“I’ve gone within as Jesus said to do.”

Where did He say this? How have you interpreted whichever Scripture verse you are quoting in light of the context of the surrounding verses in Christian teaching? Do you read the Scriptures in light of the teaching of the Church, or in the light of the teaching of those such as Deepak Chopra?

“I found God there and we’ve never stopped communing.”

How so? If we follow the pantheism you appear to espouse to its logical conclusion, we have a problem. That is, if created matter is a PART or a component of God (you and me, for instance), then this makes you God. Therefore you are not communing with a specific divine Person, you have turned inward and are communicating with yourself. To me, this sounds very prideful; that you would call yourself God and embrace a selfishness that communes only with yourself. When I have the opportunity to go to Mass (especially daily Mass), I’m encountering God in a much more complete way than you ever could by turning inward to this “self-communication”. I commune and encounter God as a Person in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. What greater relationship is there than that?

“Once one resides in a state of unity consciousness (Christ Consciousness)…”

How do these two forms of “Consciousness” apply to Christians? I’d argue that “Christ Consciousness” on its face is contradictory to anything Jesus Christ would’ve taught, as I’ve heard it described as “a level of awareness where you no longer see error in any action that you do or in any other human being”. Jesus never spoke like this, and it’s disingenuous to connect His Name to this type of “unity consciousness”. So do you accuse Christians, especially Catholic Christians in the practice of the Sacraments, to be engaging in “nonsense rooted in separation consciousness”? If so, you are confused. In “separation consciousness”, one is supposed to feel alone and useless; that no on can help and we’re on our own, right?. Apply it to say, atheists, all you want. But no Christian feels this way, Christine. We know, I know, that God is with us, and we are never alone, because through Him, we can do all things.

“Would you ever tell your child to look into your eyes every single day and tell you he is not worthy?”

Perhaps, if he needed to be, in order to recognize his faults so our relationship could be repaired from a wrongdoing. But I wouldn’t say it in the way you’ve described, and by comparison, we say this to God of our own volition. You make it as if the prayer before receiving the Eucharist is a mandate from God, but no, it’s crafted by men who are humbly imploring God’s mercy.

You’re still missing the point of declaring our unworthiness before receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, Christine. Let’s take your example further. My son takes out the car. I tell him not to be reckless while he’s out. He is reckless and crashes the car. Because by his actions, he disobeyed me and damaged the trust I had in him, I punish him by telling him he cannot take the car out for a time. It’s not usually said in common parlance, but it’d be accurate to say that my son is no longer worthy to take the car out. He is not worthy of my trust until he makes a firm purpose of amendment and rectifies the situation. Now I don’t love him any less; he could be a mass murderer and I would still love him because my love for him is unconditional. 

Now let’s say he apologizes. He says he was a moron, an idiot for doing what he did, but he wants to fix our relationship so that I can deem him worthy of taking the car out again. I forgive him and tell him, “Yea, you were pretty stupid. But that’s nothing now. I have forgiven you, I love you. Our relationship is healed.” And if he fails by wrecking the car again, the cycle repeats. And again, and again. Humans might get tired of this constant forgiving and healing… but God doesn’t because His mercy is infinite. We are unworthy because we are sinful creatures, but when God forgives our sins, He forgets them; we are healed and made totally clean! Do you remember that from the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Our sins aren’t simply “covered”, they are wiped clean away and since “He has said the word” we, in our relationship with Him, are “healed”.
Mystery of the Crowning (Matrimony) in Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

It’s the same with the married couple I talked about in my previous reply. If a husband continually cheats on his wife, and his wife remains faithful to him despite all his affairs… is it fair to say the husband is worthy of the wife’s love? Of course not! The wife deserves someone who will be faithful to her and her alone. However, the wife has declared unconditional love for her husband. It doesn’t matter if her husband is worthy or not of her own love and faithfulness. All she wants is her husband to stop being unfaithful, and to reconcile the relationship. So when the husband comes to his senses, he’s right in saying, “I have been a fool! Please, forgive me! I’m not worthy to be your spouse because of the horrible things I’ve done to you! I am so sorry!” 

And the wife who truly has unconditional love for her husband accepts this apology by saying, “You hurt me by your actions. But you’ve opened yourself up to me and declared how negligent you were in your duties as a husband. But I love you so much, i forgive you, so that our relationship might be healed!”

This is what God does with us when we receive the Eucharist, which if you remember, remits venial sins. God doesn’t want us to just “look him in the eye” and tell Him we’re unworthy; He wants us to recognize our faults (just like I would my own son), ask for forgiveness and healing of our own accord, and be in full communion with Him again. This is what you have missed in your article.

Yes, this reply is lengthy, but I hope you can at the very least reflect on what I’ve written, and come to a better understanding of why we bow down before God in humility. God Bless.

I, too, bow down before God in humility. Humility means gratitude. As God is infinite and all-loving, there are an infinite number of ways to get here, no two journeys the same. I’m happy to meet you here and to share God’s love with you. Peace be with you.

Christine is mistaken, however; humility does not simply mean gratitude. Humility does indeed stem from gratitude. But to equate the two as pure synonyms? That's simply not the case. Humility can be better defined as:"A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake." Or, as St. Bernard says: "A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself."

The author further makes the mistake of claiming that all truth is relative, and that God basically sits atop a mountain with many different ways to reach Him. Obviously there's only one way to reach God, and that's the Catholic Church. We certainly need to pray for the conversion of those who have been baptized and have abandoned the faith. We have a duty to spread the Good News and correct our brothers and sister is Christ when they have strayed from the only path that actually gets us up that mountain.

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