It’s always an awkward feeling when you are at a Catholic funeral or wedding with Protestant friends or family who cannot receive the Eucharist. Many non-Catholics do not seem to care, but others can get offended. Rather than giving in and allowing them to receive the Eucharist, let us first understand why they cannot and how it is an act of love and mercy for them to not be allowed to partake.
St. Paul gives a strong warning to those who receive the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. There are grave consequences to your life and soul when one receives it unworthily.
“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.” (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
Thanks to the recent banning of Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion because of her pro-choice advocacy and public beliefs, many Catholics are reminded of the severity of receiving Communion unworthily. It does not matter if you believe it or agree with the Church in the teaching, it matters that it is truth. Truth is not dependent upon your agreement, opinions, or feelings.
The Truth, regarding Communion, is the Eucharist is truly Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity. Through transubstantiation, the simple bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ the Lord. The reality of this heavenly encounter should make Catholics tremble and pause for examination before receiving. How much more should those who do not believe in the Real Presence be prevented from bringing condemnation and judgment upon themselves?
Catholics are urged to abstain from receiving the Eucharist if they are in a state of mortal sin. Without Confession, we would never be worthy to receive the Lord in the Eucharist. Although the issue of abortion has become the core focus of the Eucharist debate among Catholics, due to Pelosi and President Joe Biden pushing for abortion while proclaiming the Catholic faith, there are many reasons why a Catholic should abstain. Mortal sins include a great many sins such as adultery, pornography, and not attending Mass. Additionally, it is a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist while not believing in the Real Presence.
Protestants reject the Real Presence, proclaiming Communion to be merely a symbol and not the actual body and blood. As a result, Protestants should not receive the Eucharist because of their disbelief in what they are proclaiming. When one bows or genuflects before the priest to receive the Eucharist, the priest holds the host up and says, “the body of Christ”. The response? “Amen”. By responding with “amen”, you are agreeing with the priest that what you have received is, indeed, the body of Christ. If one were to say “amen” and receive the Eucharist while believing it is only a symbol, then that is speaking falsehood and telling a lie even while you receive Christ.
In addition to the disbelief and rejection of the Real Presence, St. Paul also gives us an important teaching on the Eucharist in I Corinthians 10:16-17.
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
The word “participation” in this passage can also be understood and interpreted as “fellowship”. When we receive Communion, we are receiving it as one body. We receive it as a faith community together. The Eucharist is significant not only because of who we receive (Jesus), but what it represents. It signifies that we are one in faith, worship, and life. If a Protestant were to receive Communion it would be signifying that individual is “one” with the Catholic Church in faith and worship. That would be a lie. That would be another sin that individual would have to face judgment for by the Lord.
“I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)
St. Paul reminds us that we, as Catholics and through the unifying power of the Eucharist, are called to be one body through the Holy Spirit. We have one baptism, one faith, one Lord and one God. It all hits a climax at the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith, as the Catechism teaches.
“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’ ‘The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch. The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit…In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: ‘Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.’” (CCC 1324-1325, 1327)
It is a faith not everyone shares, but we continue to pray that all will one day share. Until then, it is a great act of love to not allow an individual to receive the Eucharist when they do not believe in what they are receiving. It protects their soul.