I am not worthy, Master and Lord,
that you should come
beneath the roof of my soul;
Yet, since you in your love for all people
wish to dwell within me,
in boldness I come before you.
You command “Open the gates!”
Gates you alone have forged;
And you will come in
with love toward all, as is your nature.
You will come in and enlighten my dark reasoning.
I believe you will do this,
for you did not send away
the harlot who came to you with tears,
nor cast out the repenting publican,
nor reject the thief
who acknowledged your kingdom.
You did not forsake the repentant persecutor,
the apostle Paul, even as he was.
But all who came to you in repentance,
you counted in the band of your friends;
You, who alone lives in glory forever,
now and unto the endless ages.
— St. John Chrysostom (347-407)
On this second Sunday of Lent I find myself reflecting on my own sense of unworthiness. Tonight I feel very in touch with my inadequacies. Tonight I feel the fullness of this prayer of St. John Chrysostom. Today I preached about being able to think seriously about our own commitment to Christ. I spoke of “covenant,” and specifically of the baptismal covenant. I urged us all to look with conviction into our own journeys and seek to find ways that we might be able to better walk the path of our faith. As I seek to do that I am overwhelmed with a profound sense of unworthiness. I do feel too unworthy for God to “come beneath the roof of my soul.” Please do not read me wrong. I am not really in despair and I do not feel a crisis of faith. There are times however when I realize the magnitude of the relationship into which God has called me, and called all of us, and I am frightened by it. But why?Well in part it is because ultimately I have feelings of insecurity. It is because I attempt sometimes to do more than I can accomplish. (This leads to feelings of failure. It also sometimes leads to being judged by others.) It is because I do not always feel that I can meet others expectations of me. It is because I feel that others can do it better. It is because I too, have feelings of jealously and envy. It is because I do not always respond to others the way my baptismal covenant calls me too. It is because I do not always do as much as I can to seek and serve Christ in ALL persons. It is because I have judged others. It is because I fail at being what I expect myself to be – not just as a priest but also as a baptized disciple. It is because as a pilgrim on a journey I sometimes lack the courage it takes to “live the good news of God in Christ.”
Now having said all of that, I pray that I am not alone. I hope that there are fellow pilgrims on this journey who share my insecurities and live with the same feelings of inadequacy. I may be wrong, but I think we all struggle with the idea that we are God’s Beloved! You see we are so used to choosing everything; we are threatened when someone else chooses us. At least I am! In this wild life I like to do the choosing, to be in control. In my covenant with God, it is a little different – God choose me and God choose you. In the worst of my moments I find it hard to comprehend that God choose me. St. John Chrysostom has it right in this prayer. Hear the words: “Yet, since you in your love for all people wish to dwell within me, in boldness I come before you.” It is God’s love that allows me to get past my insecurity, past my feelings of unworthiness to arrive at a place of comfort in God’s persistence to love me, often in spite of myself and not because of myself. That is the marvelous part of God’s love. It transcends all of the barriers that we place in front of us to keep others away. While we may be able to shut out others and keep those around us on the limits of our “true self,” God jumps the walls of our emotional fortress and offers us a loving embrace. God cares for us as a Mother hen cares for her chicks. Today we are reminded to live in that love.
We do not need to be perfect. We do not need to have it all together. We really need only to open our hearts to God. We need ask in the words of St. John Chrysostom if we know no others to use, and know that God will come in. God has made the gateway to my soul and God never knocks to come through it but often enters unexpectedly. In so doing God brings love toward all and enlightens my darkness. I pray that you might journey with me to that safe haven where we together can be direct and honest with God and seek God’s help in being less insecure, less afraid, less jealous and envious, less judgmental, and more aware of forgiveness and love.
Thanks for reading.