Photography © by Andy Coan

YOLO – You Only Live Once.

This popular phrase is making waves across American culture (I admit that while I may be a young adult, I had to Google what the acronym meant). It has varying meanings from being similar to the innocence found in “carpe diem” to someone taking a stupid risk because “you only live once.” It can be fun to embrace that lifestyle and can bring some adventure into your life. It’s important, though, that when taking this point of view, you’ve got to consider the consequences of these choices, whether they’re truly beneficial on a moral level.

Making brash decisions based on the idea that you may not ever have the opportunity again tends to lend itself to carelessness. Living carelessly has its merits (as G.K. Chesterton often wrote), but when being impulsive, it would be good to stop and reflect on one thing: Are you living a worthy life?

Living a worthy life can be challenging – as a young adult, I am bombarded by so many temptations among my peers who do not embrace my same moral code. Often I feel like the black sheep when I bow out of morally objectionable situations. But I know that I am a better person for this … and it’s one less sin to tell the priest in the confessional (win!).

I’ve found that I consider this question of worthiness a lot more since developing friendships with priests and religious (something more young adults need to do). And never did I consider it harder than when a priest-friend came to visit me in Atlanta one weekend and said daily Mass for just us.

I must confess I was very nervous throughout the first Mass. It felt silly being so nervous since Father is my friend, but there was something about being the only other person present that made it special, humbling and nerve wracking. I was lector and assembly. Just me! I kept praying that I didn’t forget parts of the Mass or any of my responses – it’s easy to hide behind the hundreds of others at Sunday Mass. I only messed up once, and Father just chuckled at me and kept on going.

The next day, Father celebrated Mass in my apartment for a friend and me. Home Mass! I had asked him if he could bless my apartment while he was in town so he offered to do that AND Mass. Bonus! It’s truly an honor to have the Holy Mass in your own home and something I’d never experienced before. As I was praying the Mass, I was seeing it in all new ways. Just as Father concluded the Gospel reading (and totally skipped a homily – I was shortchanged!), it occurred to me that the Eucharist was about to be present in MY HOME and I wondered if that had ever happened before … both in my apartment or in the building.

Father began the Consecration and I continued to pray. It truly hit me at the core when Father elevated the Eucharist and said the Ecce Agnus Dei: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” When I responded with the Domine non sum dignus: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, I had a moment: My state of life flashed before me and I began to wonder if I was truly worthy to have Jesus under my roof. The Lord was in my home! I thought to myself, “Is there anything here I am ashamed of? Did I clean up enough? Ah!” After receiving Communion, I prayed about this idea of unworthiness and where I am in my journey.

After Mass and in the days following, I thought about it in a more spiritual way and less of “I should have dusted more” way. That moment brought forth the realities of my unworthiness and thoughts of who I am and what I can do to live a better life the way St. Paul urged the Ephesians: “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received” (Ephesians 4:1) .

I crave a life worthy of wholeheartedly inviting Jesus under both my physical roof and the roof of my soul, by way of Holy Communion.

A couple days after Father’s visit, I told him about the experience I had during Mass, and he taught me about the sinner’s prayer (how I didn’t know about this before is beyond me). This prayer sums up how I was (and am) feeling about it all: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I continue to reflect on what it means to live a worthy life. I feel as though I understand how the Roman centurion felt when he asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant at home (Matthew 8:5-13 and where the Domine non sum dignus comes from).

I had the courage to invite Jesus into my home, but when I realized the reality of it, I was ashamed of what I was inviting him into. Why did it take having Mass at my apartment for me to think about this? I should be thinking about this EVERY WEEK before receiving Holy Communion. And in those moments of unworthiness, I need to allow the Lord to work on me and in me to accept His grace and forgiveness. I need to allow for the same healing He showed the servant. Jesus died on the cross to prove our worthiness to open our hearts to Him.

And in that, I can realize that I do only live once … and I choose to live a life worthy of the glory of God.

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