We heard much about the teaching on the Eucharist from Jesus the previous five weekends (not including this one). Last weekend we heard from the end of the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 that even some of Jesus’ disciples left because of their lack of belief. What I don’t want to question you about is your belief in the Eucharist. No one knows your heart and my heart better than God. But what I do want to bring to your attention as a spiritual father and as a brother in Christ is a reminder that if we come forward to receive Holy Communion and thus receive Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, that we do so in a worthy manner. We shouldn’t hastily come forward to receive the Eucharist without an examination of conscience. That is the purpose of the Penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass when ALL of us acknowledge our sins before a loving and merciful God and either recite the “Lord Have Mercy” or say “I confess to Almighty God…” What may complement that action and be helpful for our spiritual lives is to also do a review of life during the week, sometime before Mass. Why? The reason is that if we come forward to receive Jesus in the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin, we can do great harm to our souls. St. Paul says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Cor. 11:27-32).
What then is mortal sin? According to the definition of it in the Catechism, it is “a grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life in the soul of the sinner (sanctifying grace), constituting a turn away from God.” For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present: 1). grave matter (i.e. adultery, murder, blasphemy), 2) full knowledge (of the evil of the act), and 3). full or deliberate consent of the will (Catechism: 1855, 1857). If one or two of these conditions are met, it is not a mortal sin. But if all three conditions are met, we are in a state of mortal sin and should refrain from receiving Holy Communion until we have gone to Confession. You may say that I am embarrassed to sit down in my pew while everyone else goes up to receive. Well, God may be humbling you. However, people who are in a state of mortal sin, may feel more comfortable praying from the pew, as suggested by my seminary professor, if everyone else in a state of grace either got up all at once from their pews or got up when they were ready and came forward to receive VS. coming up row-by-row in an orderly fashion. I am not advocating the former at this time. But this would be something that would need serious discussion and much prayer.
What if I am in doubt? Then I would recommend not to come forward until you have gone to confession. My high school principal used to say in regards to the uniform dress code…”When in doubt, don’t wear it.” Likewise, when in doubt, don’t do it. Not being able to receive Jesus one weekend (assuming you go to confession sometime the following week) isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s a very good thing because you respect and honor the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This may be news to you, but Catholics are only required to receive the Eucharist at least once per year. What do I mean? While there are five precepts in the Church (minimums in the spirit of prayer and moral effort for the purpose of growth in love of God and neighbor), the third precept states: “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season”) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy” (Catechism 2042). So Catholics are only required to receive the Eucharist at a minimum of only once per year at least during the Easter season but recommended to go much more, provided we aren’t in mortal sin.
Receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood isn’t a “free-for-all.” He is holy, and receiving him is a sacred experience. If you got ill from food poisoning, and knew the food that got you sick from and where it was located, you certainly would not go back to eat more of it, would you? Of course not, since it would make you even more ill. Rather, you would go to the doctor, to the store to get medication or maybe even to the hospital, depending on how ill you were, in order to be healed. If we are in a state of mortal sin, then we are spiritually ill, which may even be manifested physically, and we need to encounter Jesus, the Divine Physician in the confessional. The priest is the spiritual doctor, which Jesus works through, to bring you the healing you need through the forgiveness of sins. After you have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation you have been restored to a state of grace that allows you the opportunity to once again receive Jesus in the Eucharist to be spiritually nourished and strengthened. Jesus, thank you for the gift of yourself to us in the Eucharist. Help us always receive you worthily. Amen. Further Reading: Catechism: 1415, 1854-1861, 1874
In The Life, Power and Love of Jesus in the Eucharist,