Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Eucharist is both the source of ecclesial unity and its greatest manifestation. The Eucharist is an epiphany of communion. For this reason the Church sets conditions for full participation in the celebration of the Eucharist. These various limitations ought to make us ever more conscious of the demands made by the communion which Jesus asks of us. It is a hierarchical communion, based on the awareness of a variety of roles and ministries, as is seen by the reference to the Pope and the Diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer. It is a fraternal communion, cultivated by a "spirituality of communion" which fosters reciprocal openness, affection, understanding and forgiveness.
John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine #21

In my childhood, on Saturday mornings, as a bumper between shows, one network would show educational vignettes called "School House Rock." In the segment on how to multiply by 3's, the first line we heard was "Man and woman have a little baby / yes, they did / they have three in their family / it’s a magic number." Now, I don’t think it was the intention of the creators to a.) make a pro- or anti- traditional family statement or b.) promote a Trinitarian vision of the world. However, they did hit on a basic fact of existence. Alone, we are diminished; gathered together we discover the magic, the supernatural dimensions, of being human.

Beginning from its Latin roots, communion is union with another. It a particular type of oneness. Many things are one merely because of what they are. So, all cats are animals or all cars are machines. That is unity. Communion goes one step further. Communion implies that those who are in union want to be in that union and have taken some action to make this union explicit. You don’t have to ask your cat, "Do you want to be in union with other animals?" It simply is. Compare this to when someone gets married, even if only according to the natural law. There is a public acknowledgment that this union has begun. Communion lends a perfection to union, grounding union upon knowledge and the act of the will. Communion is a gift and an act of giving.

Our Catholic Faith revolves around communion. Each Sunday, most of us, if not of all of us, process forward to receive Holy Communion. The great majority of Catholics live out the Faith in one of the two sacraments based in communion, Marriage or Holy Orders. Our life in Christ begins when we are baptized thus entering into union with Christ and His Church. To be in Christ, therefore, is both receiving the gift of union from Christ and returning that gift to Christ in order to perfect the union between myself, God, and my neighbor. The Church transcends all we know of union for it is a union of condescension. In the previous examples given, the parties involved were all creatures, limited and contingent. The Church rests upon communion given by one who is infinitely greater. We should stand with jaws agape at this truth. God has deigned to treat that which is closer to oblivion as though it were His equal! Being a member of the Body means that neutrality and indifference to the gifts and responsibilities of communion are most offensive to the very best which God has embedded in our souls.

It should be clearer now why we don’t just admit anyone to Holy Eucharist. For Catholics, there is a presumption that you are in fact practicing what you proclaim. This means that those who are in the state of mortal sin are not to receive Holy Communion until the reception of Sacramental Confession. Objectively speaking, mortal sin kills the life of Grace in us and represents our departure from communion with God. Also, Catholics who are divorced and remarried without having received an annulment for any previous marriage are not to receive the Holy Eucharist.

For our non-Catholic Christian brethren, we certainly recognize that a degree of communion exists due to common belief in Christ and the sacrament of Baptism. At the same moment, sadly, we have to point to real divisions between our fellow Christians. It is these divisions which prevents the sharing of Holy Communion. Each of these divisions represents a "no" to the totality of what the Church professes. It would run counter to the very nature of the Blessed Sacrament as the sacrament of unity to admit those who are in fact not in complete union. Under exceptional circumstances, a non-Catholic Christian may be admitted to Holy Communion but only if the non-Catholic is baptized, asks of their own accord, professes the same Faith as the Church concerning the Most Holy Eucharist, and is without the ministry of their own minister (Code of Canon Law #844).

Groucho Marx once quipped that he didn’t want to belong to any club that will accept him as a member. The membership of any organization says volumes about its direction and purposes. When we look at the Church, we should see the ragged, world-weary, storm-tossed remnant who longs to find their home. Amongst the models of sanctity, the success stories, so to speak, the heart-sick, wounded in sin and suffering sin’s effects, gather to be healed. The Holy Eucharist is a medicine of salvation because it brings us to the true Physician of our souls. As ignoring our doctor’s instructions means our condition’s worsening, so not combating sin and striving to be perfect means we undermine the work of Christ who desires us to have life abundantly, life everlasting.


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