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:
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:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Sharon Carriere, Who Should Not Receive Communion, Local Planned Parenthood)
Senator Durbin's Scorecard
Bishop Samuel Aquila: As I was looking at a small arm and leg it was obvious to me that it was a human person who was destroyed...
Monroe priest cleared for work (investigation refutes allegations of sexual misconduct)
Plain talk from Cleveland Plain Dealer: Each person owns the decision to stay or to take that "personal" faith someplace more comfortable, so let's drop the histrionics about the church "dictating people's politics." The church has no power to do such a thing.
What did Reagan call "a wound in our national conscience"?
Outside of the world of Catholic theology this will not mean much, but Ronald Reagan actually made a speech on Hans Urs von Balthasar!
From Bishop Sheridan: I was distressed by those who misread and misrepresented what I wrote...
Fr. Joseph Wilson on The Communion Controversy - a thoughtful (and painful) reflection by a young priest
The Bitterest Irony of the Reagan Legacy
Augustine on the Eucharist
Holy Family Parish Luau (June 5, 2004)