Communion for Kerry?

(Homily for Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C)

Should John Kerry receive Communion? And, if he comes forward, should a priest give the Sacrament or just a blessing? Let me admit from the start that those questions are above my pay grade. I am praying for our bishops as they wrestle with the crucial issues which the questions imply – and I would welcome and follow any directives from my own bishop. Not that I think it likely Senator Kerry would show up at Holy Family, Seattle, but, like many of you, I am keenly interested in how the bishops answer – or avoiding answering – the questions.

The questions have attracted interest because of their political implications. Senator Kerry is the first Catholic since 1960 to have a serious chance at becoming president - and unfortunately, is at variance with the Catechism on certain fundamental teachings. A statement by the bishops would provoke great emotions but, no matter how forceful, it will not make any notable difference in the election outcome. However, it might affect a more significant contest – the battle for souls.

This Sunday’s readings underscore the seriousness of Holy Communion. Two thousand years before Christ, a priest named Melchizedek offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. St. Paul, writing to a congregation in crisis, insists that the bread we eat and wine we drink are the Lord’s very Body and Blood. In feeding the multitudes, Jesus uses the Eucharistic verbs: taking, blessing, broke and gave.

Before reading the Gospel, we had the beautiful Sequence Lauda Sion. Using lean Latin poetry, St. Thomas Aquinas emphasizes the seriousness of receiving Communion. Allow me to quote Aquinas in his original words:

Sumunt boni, sumunt mali:
sorte tamen inaequali,
vitae vel interitus.

Both the good and the evil eat,
but how unequal their fates!
one to endless life the other to endless death.

Mors est malis, vita bonis:
vide paris sumptionis
quam sit dispar exitus.

To one death, to the other life:
Behold how the same feast
brings an infinitely different outcome!

St. Paul says that if a person receives the Lord’s body and blood “in an unworthy manner” that he “eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (I Cor 11:29) I site these words with some hesitation because I know some of you suffer from scrupulosity – and automatically think the words apply to you, even though you have examined your conscience to great excess. On the other hand – and I believe this applies to a much greater number – many people have become over casual about receiving Communion.

It used to be that many refrained from coming forward for communion. Today – with the exception of those divorced and remarried – almost no one does. Included in the number are some who attend Mass sporadically and others who are involved in serious sexual sins.

The Guidelines for Reception of Communion, printed in your missalette, states, “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for grave reason where there is no opportunity to confess.” This is not punitive. It is mercy. The Church as a good mother is concerned that her children not eat and drink condemnation upon themselves.

This concern for worthily receiving Communion ultimately should not cause us to focus on ourselves, but remind us of how great is this gift and mystery. Jesus desires healing, peace and forgivness for all. St. Thomas Aquinas expressed it magnificently in the final strophe of the Sequence:

Bone pastor, panis vere,
Iesu, nostri miserere:
Tu nos pasce, nos tuere,
Tu nos bona fac videre
in terra viventium.
Tui qui cuncta scis et vales,
qui nos pascis hic mortales:
tuos ibi commensales,
coheredes et sodales
fac sanctorum civium.
Amen. Alleluia.

Jesus, Shepherd mild and meek,
shield the poor, support the weak;
help all who Thy pardon sue,
placing all their trust in You:
fill them with Your healing grace!
Source of all we have or know,
feed and lead us here below.
grant that with Your Saints above,
sitting at the feast of love
we may see You face to face.
Amen. Alleluia.


Spanish Version

From Archives (Corpus Christiy - Year C):

2013: Eucharistic Coherence
2010: Why Do I Have To Go To Mass?
2007: Our Daily Bread
2004: Communion for Kerry?
2001: The Eucharist Makes It Through
1998: This is My Body

Complete List:

2013: Eucharistic Coherence
2012: Afflicted with Hunger
2011: Most Precious Possession
2010: Why Do I Have To Go To Mass?
2009: What Have I Given You?
2008: Who May Receive Communion?
2007: Our Daily Bread
2006: Language of the Body
2005: Reverence for Eucharist
2004: Communion for Kerry?
2003: To Worship His Body and Blood
2002: Broken Bread
2001: The Eucharist Makes It Through
2000: Combatting Impatience
1999: Notes for Homilist
1998: This is My Body
Jesus: True Bread of Life (How to Receive and Reverence the Eucharist)

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday: Homilies

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