A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $100 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $100 bill?” Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $100 to one of you but first, let me do this…” He proceeded to crumple up the dollar bill. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “What if I do this?” he said. And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. “Now who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $100.”
We live in a fallen world, and we have all experienced rejection, betrayal, failure or abuse of one kind or another.
Many of us have been dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by decisions we made ourselves or circumstances that came our way. We made “a big mistake” and feel that we will never recover. We feel that we are not worthy of forgiveness, love, mercy or peace because our mistake is just too big.
Some of us have reacted by trying to build up our self-esteem through our achievements: by being more beautiful than other people; by winning more awards; by going to the most prestigious high schools or colleges, by being member of the best traveling sports teams, by getting the right job, earning the right promotion, making the right amount of money… We look to these things to prove that we are valuable, that we matter. But our own achievements are as flimsy and undependable as other people’s opinions. There is always someone else who achieves more, and so the world will never let you stop feeling inferior.
What is especially sad, egregious, traumatic, horrible, deplorable, horrifying … is that many times, the very people who were supposed to teach us what it is like to be valued and loved have – failed us.
But we never lose our value. Regardless whether we are dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, we are still priceless to our Creator, who knows us through and through and cherishes us no matter what.
Because of the great love God had for us – even when we were dead in our transgressions, He brought us to life with Christ. By grace you have been saved, raised up with Christ and seated with Christ in the heavens. So that in the ages to come, God might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
God will never give up on us. He wants to be the Savior that we need. This is the unquenchable source of every Christian’s joy and hope.
Jesus wants us with him forever in heaven, so much that he was willing to be torn and crumpled and stomped on and humiliated just as much as we have been.
Psychologists tell us that healthy self-esteem is critical for interior peace, self-confidence, and emotional maturity. But they also say that most of us have self-esteem problems. The only true, stable, and lasting source of self-esteem is God, our Lord and Savior, “who loved us and gave himself for us” (Galatians 2:20).
What a relief! You don’t have to make yourself valuable; you already are valuable, eternally valuable, and the crucifix proves it. This is why right in the middle of Lent the Church invites us to rejoice. The rose-colored vestments symbolize Christian joy, the deepest self-esteem that we can ever
experience, because it is based on the solid rock of God’s unfailing love, which is bigger than our sin, misery, and weakness.
I close with a quote from St. Peter Chrysologus: “Why do you have so low an opinion of yourself, when you are so precious to God? Do not dishonor yourself when you are so honored by God.”
Audio version of the homily is here: