28th Sunday Ordinary Time – “Not Worthy…”
I didn’t believe it when I discovered that there are two Greek words used in the Bible for “worthy.” Go figure. The one we are most familiar with is hikanos. Luke uses it 27 times in the gospel and Acts.
Luke 3:16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire…”
Luke 7:6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof;
For example, the Gentile centurion he is not thinking of the ritual uncleanness which Jesus as a Jew would incur by entering a non-Jewish house. What he has in view is the majesty and authority of Jesus which lift Him above everything human, especially in the non-Jewish sphere. This is expressed supremely in the way in which he goes on to speak of his own authority and of the ἐξουσία of Jesus (Mt. 8:9). On the lips of the centurion the οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανός is thus a confession of the Messiahship of Jesus. This is how Jesus Himself understands it.
Matthew uses hikanos 3 times.
He also uses axios, “worthy” about those willing to repent and to follow him with total self-offering. In the Sunday gospel, the king states that ‘those invited (Called) were not worthy. Therefore, go into the streets…’
Matthew 3:7–9 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Matthew 10:37f Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Again, this passage represents two calls to the chief priests and Pharisees. First, to get their attention (with a two by four) by highlighting the guests’ rejection. Second, to call them yet another time to repentance.
This call is to get some reaction from the chief priests and Pharisees. And us. Somedays mine is simply blah, blah, blah. Other days, I respond more viscerally, “Who’s not worthy!” You?