Mark 14:24
He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
I want to say at the start that this great feast day of Corpus Christi could cause a lot of conflict in our country today. There are people on both sides of the issue concerning how open the church should be regarding people receiving Communion when they do not appear to be… in good standing with the church.
I am going to try to step between the minefield of these issues. I probably will not be able to do so to everyone’s satisfaction. But this is my understanding of the teachings of the church. Remember the small quote I made from Jesus’ own words in the gospel today. That his blood was to be shed for many, not for all.
We really need to begin here. Jesus is telling us right away that there are those for whom his sacrifice on the cross will not be… useful. It will not be useful because they will not take what Jesus has chosen to give.
Recently there have been studies regarding people’s understanding of the Eucharist. According to these studies, there is a significant percentage of people who claim to be Catholic who do not believe that they are eating the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ when they receive Communion.
This is a most serious problem! If you do not know that you are receiving God into yourself at Communion, according to St. Paul, you are eating and drinking judgement upon yourself. Here is the quote from his letter to the Corinthians in chapter 11 where he talks about the Institution of the Eucharist:
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
There are two issues here. The first is the question of unworthiness. The second is about discernment. Now, it is true – in an absolute sense – that all of us could be judged unworthy. So we have to ask the question about what the unworthiness is that St. Paul is speaking about.
There are many situations where people put themselves in a place where they are not participating in the full life of the church. And St. Paul is talking about all of these things in the same section. Whether it is unworthiness because of a moral problem or a lack of discernment as to what is happening with the Eucharist, there are many things that the church teaches that should cause us to take a look at what we are doing.
When the church asks someone not to receive Communion because of some… event in their life, it is not the same thing as a formal excommunication. It is based on St. Paul’s position and warning against a judgment from God for taking Communion without proper preparation or understanding. This is also why non-Catholics are not allowed to receive the Eucharist.
The church is trying to protect everyone who is a believer in Jesus from making serious mistakes that may cost them eternity in heaven because they do not understand what they are doing when they receive the Eucharist.
This is hard for people to understand, or maybe to accept. It is not intended as a punishment, as much as it is a recognition that receiving the Eucharist is so sacred that to do so without preparation in your own heart and understanding as best as you can what you are doing, you are running a terrible risk of alienating yourself from God.
This seems to me to be the only clear understanding of what St. Paul means in his letter to the Corinthians. It is not a question of, as some people try to claim, weaponizing the Eucharist. It is clearly – at least to me – an attempt to help people reach heaven.
Would anyone in their right mind fail to warn someone that they are about to drink poison? I know, that is not the best analogy because it would seem I am calling the Eucharist poison. But Paul seems to be warning that judgment is the result of failure regarding the Eucharist.
This is one of the most critical issues of our day in the church.
There are people who want to allow for Communion between any set of Christians, without any discernment of the difference between approaches to the meaning of the Eucharist. There are Christian groups who claim that their version of Eucharist is only a symbol and not the Real Presence, as we understand it.
There are people who want to allow everyone to receive regardless of their moral position on issues that the church thinks – rightly so – are critical to a good Catholic life.
This is dangerous to their souls. This is not being cruel. This is not being elitist. This is about helping people to live a life that will lead them to heaven. There are so many distractions in our world today that it is hard to live the solid moral life that God calls us to. And it seems many people would rather accommodate the world than to live in the truth of Scripture and the Catholic tradition.
On this feast of Corpus Christi, we need to return to the truth, without compromise, but with compassion. That is why the church asks some people to refrain from Communion, either because they are not part of our church, or they have some other… issue that, for the good of their soul, should require them to refrain from receiving the body and blood soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. And that other issue may simply be that they do not understand or accept the idea of the Real Presence as the church teaches.
Lord Jesus, we are in a crisis of truth regarding the Eucharist in our day. Help the church to remain clear in her teaching. Give the leaders of our church courage to stand for the truth of the Gospel and of the Eucharist. Give us all an intimate knowledge of the meaning of the Eucharist.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear me. Within your wounds conceal me. Do not permit me to be parted from you. From the evil foe protect me. At the hour of my death call me. And bid me come to you, to praise you with all your saints for ever and ever. Amen.