Over several months, I have used the issues with concerns about the virus to talk about how to deal with whether or not you feel you are ready to receive the Eucharist. Ultimately, that is the question. We are coming off a long time in this Church at least in the United States where there was an over-focus on Hell leaving people to feel they have a small chance of getting to Heaven. Now there is an over-focus on Heaven leaving people to feel they have a small chance of going to Hell. There needs to be a real focus on what the Church actually teaches. We can begin with the teaching on who should receive the Eucharist.
We as Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Body of Blood of Christ physically present. It is not a symbol but it is the actual presence of Jesus Christ given to us at the Last Supper. We also believe that the Body and Blood we receive is the same Body and Blood crucified on the cross. Some people may have a hard time believing this. I do believe it wholeheartedly.
I will not right now go into the mechanics of transubstantiation.
The Eucharist as the manifestation of God
The Eucharist present to us is a greater manifestation of God’s presence building upon the previous sign which was the presence of God in the tablets of the Ten Commandments. They were placed in what is known as the Ark of the Covenant also called a tabernacle and those tablets and the Ark were God’s presence among the people.
Jesus’ death and Resurrection brought forth a New Covenant with us and as a sign of this covenant Jesus left us His Body and Blood. Again, as before, Jesus is present in the Eucharist. So when we approach the Eucharist we approach this gift to us understanding that God is giving himself to us and we are giving ourselves to God. This is the meaning of receiving Communion.
If you do not feel ready to do this remember what you are saying is I do not feel ready to give myself completely over to you. Those aren’t words of self-condemnation, they are words of caution. There is a warning several places in the Bible against giving ourselves to God half-heartedly. The warning basically is if you are not ready to give of yourself completely, be honest and do not. Ask the Lord to help you to come to that point. Do not pretend and approach God saying one thing and doing another. Remember, you are approaching the presence of God himself come to you in ways that you can approach Him as he guides you to a whole new way of being. This is what the Eucharist is.
The other reason why I brought that up is in about a week, the bishops of the United States are going to discuss whether or not to deny President Joseph Biden the Eucharist because of his stand on abortion. I will not offer my opinion on that discussion to you, I am not a bishop. The Vatican is telling them to temper their discussion.
Let’s get beyond the rules
If you look at the discussion, you will notice it is based on the rules of the Church. There is a canon law that says anyone who has any part in an abortion must not receive the Eucharist and there is a movement in the country that wants to deny all pro-abortion Catholic politicians the Eucharist. Again, their reasoning is based on the rules.
However, I do not see anyone offering this discussion based on what we are actually receiving. Again, this is not a symbol, this is Christ who gives himself to us in the Eucharist. The liturgy calls it food for the journey. This means that the food is so sublime because the journey is so difficult.
If we truly understand our mission as Catholics, we understand that we are called to stand up to the Devil himself on behalf of those who are not aware of the battle for souls. We have a vocation to live a whole different vision of life than what you see around us teaching. We have a mission to be the signs of a sublime truth. That is what we are all about. There is nothing you can learn in any of the institutions around us that comes to matching what we represent. That call that each of us receives at Baptism and then further at confirmation is to the most difficult mission.
When we come to receive the Eucharist we come to offer ourselves on the same level that Christ offers himself to us. So the Eucharist is not just something we receive, it is a recommitment to the covenant that Christ made with us on the Cross.
I have a saying I use when I need to sign a document, I will read it though and invariably someone says to me just sign it. My joking response is: “The last time I did that I end up in the Navy for six years.” Coming to receive the Eucharist is a ratification of the covenant that Jesus offers you and it is essential that we think it through and realize what we are doing.
What the Eucharist really is
This is not about just following rules, it is not about political parties, it is far more sublime than any of that. It is about giving ourselves to the Lord as completely as we can. Each time we receive the Eucharist it is about giving ourselves to Him even more as he gives himself to us completely.
If you really understand what you are doing then it should be an action that at the very least gives you trepidation and at the worst terrifies you. Why because you are embodying by your action those words in the Our Father: May your will be done. Are you ready to say those words?
Finally, if you truly understand the faith and seek to live it then when you return to your seat do not miss the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in the back. That is about putting your faith in action.
Receiving the Eucharist is meaningless if we are not bringing our life to prayer and putting our faith in action. When we do that we become revolutionaries for a truth so powerful it is more transforming than all the elements of truth taught around us.
So do not come to communion because, well that is what you are supposed to do or that is what everyone else is doing. Come to communion because you are committing yourself to Christ’s call to you at baptism. If you are not ready, that is ok. Pray to the Lord to help you become ready and talk to me about what needs to be addressed. If you are ready, remember, you are offering yourself to Christ as he offers himself to you. It is not a benign act.
Finally, remember the response to The Body of Christ is Amen not Thank you. Amen is an affirmation of what you are actually doing.