The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted in June to issue a document on the Eucharist. The vote is just the beginning as now the bishops will now begin hammering out the details of that document.
Catholics have a variety of opinions as to what that document should include and why. For many, it should pave a path for national restrictions on reception of the Eucharist by national politicians such as President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi because of their avid support of abortion. For others, it should provide an avenue for all Catholics to receive the Eucharist if they present themselves for reception during Mass. The discussion certainly needs to be had and it is crucial for all Catholics to understand the beauty, power, majesty of the Eucharist. One’s belief if public officials such as President Biden and Speaker Pelosi should be denied communion based on their public policies can vary from Catholic to Catholic and even bishop to bishop. However, a closer look at the commands of Christ himself on the Eucharist can reveal where our eyes should be focused. The most important question each Catholic should ask himself or herself before approaching the altar to receive holy Communion is “should I be denied the communion?”
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” (I Corinthians 11:27-30)
St. Paul acknowledges there is a “worthiness” that must be held of each person who receives the Eucharist. The argument that none are “worthy” because we are all sinners and, therefore, all should be able to receive communion falls apart in light of St. Paul’s teachings. If all were worthy to receive holy Communion simply by being Catholic and presenting themselves for communion then St. Paul would not have warned about an “unworthiness”. St. Paul would have taught that all are unworthy and therefore we are all equal. That’s just not the case and not the teachings of Jesus or St. Paul. This is not something the beloved saint created on his own. He says earlier in the chapter, in verse 23 “for I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…” St. Paul is teaching, at this moment and with this very “unworthiness” concept, exactly what Christ taught him. He is teaching holy Communion is not a right, it’s a privilege and it comes with caveats. There is a grave, eternal danger in receiving the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. Let’s take a closer look at St. Paul’s teaching.
- Personal Examination: Each Catholic should examine themselves and their life. Prior to presenting yourself for reception of the Eucharist, you should look at your life at that moment and ask yourself “am I in a state of mortal sin?” If you are in a state of mortal sin which you have not confessed, sought forgiveness and repented, you should deny yourself reception of communion. You should protect yourself from bringing judgment upon yourself and should not receive communion.
- Consequences of unworthy reception: St. Paul gives a vehement warning in this passage there are serious consequences to receiving the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. There are temporal and eternal consequences. The temporal consequence, as St. Paul gives, can be sickness. He says that many of those in Corinth are ill and suffering from infirmities because they have received the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. He even goes as far as saying some of they are dying simply because of the consequences of receiving it unworthily. The eternal dangers are even more of a grave concern. He says to receive the Eucharist in an unworthy manner, in other words to treat it as a right and not a privilege, brings judgment upon you because it goes directly against the body and blood of Jesus. Judgment can come while we are on earth, but it will certainly come after we have passed into eternity.
While we await the final document from the bishops on Eucharistic reception, may we seek to guarantee we are not receiving it unworthily. In the end, the bishops will answer to God for what they may or may not do regarding reception of holy Communion by pro-abortion Catholic politicians. We, however, will answer to Christ for how we treated his body and blood each time we approach the altar. We will not answer for how Joe Biden received the Eucharist, but we will certainly answer to how we did. In fact, we may even face judgment and illnesses while here on earth because of our personal unworthy reception. Before you present yourself for Eucharistic reception the next time, take a microscopic examination to determine if you are in an unworthy state. Yes, the bishops and priests are guardians of the Blessed Sacrament. However, you should value your soul and your eternal life enough to refuse yourself communion when in a state of mortal sin. You should love Jesus enough to refuse yourself communion until you confess and repent. If you guard your life, your soul and your relationship with Christ carefully then no one else will need to guard it for you.