Sometimes we say: “I believe in God and that is all that matters." But the problem with this argument is that there is no place for God’s greatest gift, the Eucharist, in our lives. Because the respect, the reverence for the Eucharist is –very often- is missing from our lives.
But I do not have to look to others. There are times that the reverence for the Eucharist is not all it should be in my life, as perhaps also in yours. Too often I prepare for Mass focusing on the homily while not remembering that far more important than the homily is the reception of the Word Made Flesh in Communion. Perhaps, too often you join the line to receive Holy Communion without taking the time to consider what you are doing or Whom you are receiving. Too often people receive Communion and they don’t even know that instead of saying “Thank you” they have to say Amen. Too often people receive Communion and they then head for the doors to beat the parking lot traffic. It's too bad, but that is the reality we very often see here.
The lack of reverence for the Eucharist is rooted -most probably- in our lack of reverence for our daily bread. How many times we can see the bread, or the food in general thrown out into the garbage, despised, disrespected … How often we don’t respect what we have, but instead we starve for more money, for more luxurious things? Maybe the lack of reverence for the Eucharist is rooted also in our lack of reverence and respect for others. Maybe we don’t respect the Eucharist because we do not respect our brothers and sisters, our neighbors?
Or there is maybe another, more direct cause of the lack of reverence for the Eucharist? It is maybe the fact that actually we don’t believe that this white piece of bread is truly the Body of Christ. In such a situation it will be perhaps better to read the continuation of today’s second reading from the 1 letter to the Corinthians, where St. Paul writes very clearly: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourself, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body and blood, eats and drinks judgment against himself.”
"Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day: for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them."
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake (share in) one bread."
"As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves" (1 Cor 11:26-29)
Eucharist the center of our life - Teaching of the Church about receiving Communion
Eucharistic Communion is both an expression and an intensifier of communion with the Church. As a result, there are limits to who can receive Communion. In Ecclesia de Eucharistia, John Paul II points out that communion with the Church is both visible and invisible, and both are needed to receive the Eucharist.
Visible communion with the Church “entails communion in the teaching of the apostles, in the sacraments, and in the Church’s hierarchical order” (35)—in other words, accepting Catholic doctrine, receiving the Church’s sacraments, and being subject to its governance. In short, being a faithful Catholic.
Invisible communion with the Church, “in Christ and through the working of the Holy Spirit, unites us to the Father and among ourselves.” Union with God is achieved through the state of grace, which is thus indispensable to receiving Eucharistic Communion. Though some have tried to deny this or to water down the fact that every mortal sin destroys the state of grace, it remains true.
Thus the pontiff states that “along these same lines, the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly stipulates that ‘anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of reconciliation before coming to communion. ’ I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent . . . affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, ‘one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin’” (36; cf. CCC 1385).
This means that some Catholics are not allowed to receive Communion. This is a particularly sensitive issue when it comes to those who live in objectively immoral situations, such as invalid marriages. These can arise when a Catholic marries outside the Church without a dispensation or remarries after divorce without an annulment.
In regard to such cases, the Pope stresses: “The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct that is seriously, clearly, and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion” (EDE 37; cf. CIC 915).
Incoherence, inconsistency of our life
While we cannot judge another person's soul, still we recognize that those involved in certain actions should not come forward for Communion.
You may have heard about bishops admonishing certain politicians not to receive Communion. In this instance the politicians had taken public stands promoting abortion. Since one is Democrat and the other Republican, clearly the bishops are not acting in a partisan manner. Still, the bishops' action surprised some people. What business, they ask, do the bishops have telling someone they should not receive Communion?
The popular perception sees caring liberal bishops welcoming Catholic politicians regardless of their abortion orientation to receive Communion while heartless conservative bishops use confrontation at the altar rail as an opportunity to embarrass and harass political leaders who cross them on their hobbyhorse of opposing a woman's 'right to choose'.
From the earliest days of the Church, receiving Holy Communion unworthily has been forbidden; forbidden out of concern for those who would make such unworthy communions. St. Paul in the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians wrote: "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
From this perspective, Bishops who treat Catholic politicians who support abortion as if they were in full communion with the Church are neglecting their pastoral concern and charity for their wayward spiritual children.
Actually, the bishops were acting out of a long tradition. St. Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves carefully before receiving Communion. Otherwise instead of receiving a blessing they might bring condemnation upon themselves. And St. Paul identified at least one person who should not be part of the Church's communion. St. Paul was not acting on his own. Jesus practiced a similar tough love.
Part of our problem - at least in the United States - is that we have lost the sense of coherence between Communion and the rest of one's life. I would like to mention this Sunday that other acts also exclude a person from Communion. For example, a couple living together without sacramental marriage should not come forward for Communion. If someone has missed Sunday Mass without a sufficient reason, they should not receive Communion until they have gone to confession. At their annual meeting, the American bishops published a document titled "'Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper': On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist." It gives specific guidance on who may receive Communion and when a person should refrain.
The bishops were careful to stress that you and I should not set ourselves as judges of those who come forward for Communion. For example, a couple may not be in a sacramental marriage, but they may have made a special pledge to live as brother and sister. That would between them and their pastor. If one does have a concern about whether someone else should refrain from Communion, the first thing to do is to pray. Maybe you are not the right one to approach that other person. Maybe God will sense someone else on account of your prayer. And maybe he will open a door for you to gently guide the other person. It would be a great act of love.
In today's Sequence, St. Thomas mentions that some receive Communion for salvation, others to their damnation. The greatest thing you can do for another person is to be an instrument setting them on the path to salvation. That is what the bishops were doing when they admonished Catholic politicians who are promoting abortion. We are not here to make people into Democrats or Republicans. We are here to help people become saints. Someday the Republicans and Democrats will be as long forgotten as the Whigs and the Know Nothings. But the saints will shine like unquenchable stars.
This Sunday we celebrate the great gift of Communion. Let's humbly ask the Lord that we may receive him in a way that will lead us to salvation.
The Church is the Body of Christ - For the Child:
Thanksgiving after Receiving Holy Communion
Dear Jesus, I believe that You are present within my heart.
You said, "This is My Body and My Blood."
And I know You love me and want to be with me.
From my heart, I thank You for all You have given to me: my life, my parents, my health, Baptism, protection, and all that I have.
Make me more grateful still.
Generous Lord, I ask for still more: Protect my soul and body.
Be good to those I love. Grant me this special favor. (mention it here)
Watch over me and make me good and happy.
Jesus, I promise to receive You often in Holy Communion.
Remain with me, dear Jesus, today and always.
Never leave me in life and be with me in the hour of my death.