Christ Makes Us Worthy

By Marc Massery

Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, Third Sunday of Advent

•Is 61:1-2A, 10-11
•Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54.
•1 Thes 5:16-24
•Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

John the Baptist embodied true humility. 

But being humble doesn’t mean we have to live in the wilderness, dress in camel’s hair, and subsist on locusts and wild honey. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the virtue of humility “consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one’s superior.” 

John kept within his own bounds. When the priests and Levites approached Him, asking if he were the Messiah, he not only denied it, he said that he wasn’t even worthy to untie the Messiah's sandals. According to Scripture scholar William Barclay, “There was a Rabbinic saying which said that a disciple might do for his master anything that a servant did, except only to untie his sandals. That was too menial a service for even a disciple to render.” So John is saying that he’s not even fit to be Christ’s slave. 

While humility includes being lowly, it doesn’t require self-hatred. Knowing that he’s not worthy to even untie Christ’s sandals, John doesn’t just give up and wallow in self-pity. He recognizes that the Lord had entrusted him with an important task: to prepare the way for His coming. John did so by calling the Jews to Baptism, which no Jew had ever considered doing before. John also called everyone to confess their sins and to repent. He could do so confidently, because he himself understood his own need to turn his life over to the Lord. 

The priests and Levites approach John the Baptist in this Gospel primarily because of John’s unusual priestly practices, which were drawing so much attention from the locals. They were also interested in learning more about John because they recognized that by birth, he was a true priest. John was the son of Zachariah, a priest who descended from the line of Aaron. Any man descended from Aaron was, by default, a priest. The priests and the Levites were so proud of their own lineage; ultimately it's what they cared about most. As a result, they didn’t do much self-reflection. They didn’t understand, as John did, their own need for God. They didn’t realize their own need for confession and repentance. In this way, the priests and the Levites weren’t humble, but quite proud. Saint Thomas calls pride, “excessive desire for one’s own excellence which rejects subjection to God.” The priests and the Levites didn’t just believe they were worthy to untie Christ’s sandals, they believed it would be beneath them to do so. 

Do you realize your own unworthiness in relation to Christ? At the same time, do you understand Christ’s love for you? That even though you are lowly in comparison to Him, you have value and a God-given mission? Saint Faustina understood both her own unworthiness and at the same time, her importance to the Lord. How? The Lord explained it to her:

You too, should not back away and say that you are not worthy of receiving greater graces when I give them to you. I know you are unworthy, but rejoice all the more and take as many treasures from My Heart as you can carry, for then you will please Me more. (292)

We are unworthy! But that’s OK, because Christ is merciful and generous. He has great graces in store for us. And we don’t necessarily have to wear camel’s hair and eat locusts and wild honey. We just have to remember that though we are unworthy, though we need frequent confession and repentence — Christ makes us worthy. 


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