Why Do You Want to Receive Communion Anyway?

Maybe they want to receive communion because they feel excluded and they feel hurt by the exclusion. While we can acknowledge this pain, feeling excluded and having hurt feelings is not the reason to want to receive communion.

Perhaps their desire to receive communion has become infected with a human rights agenda of some sort. “It’s not fair that I am being excluded. You are making me into a second class citizen. You are denying me my rights.” You know how it goes. Again, while their feelings may be recognized and we can acknowledge their sense of injustice, this is not the reason to wish to receive communion.

Maybe the person says, “I want to receive communion because I love and wish to serve the Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I wish to enter into full communion with him through the reception of his body and blood. ”

Well, that’s good. However, if a person really wishes to be in full communion with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then he would want his life to conform to the moral teachings of Jesus Christ and he would be horrified to think that he might be in a state of mortal sin. He would be horrified at the thought of eating and drinking damnation unto himself and sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

The pope has said, “Communion is medicine for the sick.” and he echoes St Ambrose and Thomas Aquinas in that. However, as Thomas D. Williams explains here it’s not quite as simple as therefore throwing open the doors to all to receive communion.

Before the person receives the medicine he needs first to have his open wound bound up and healed. The confessional is the field hospital. That is where we receive surgery for the wound of sin. Communion is the sign and seal of the forgiveness and reconciliation with Christ we receive in the confessional. If you like it is the medicine that helps us get better after the radical surgery.

Therefore, if a person wishes to receive “the medicine of communion” it is pointless to do so without first going to make a full and heartfelt confession.

If a divorced and remarried person or an actively homosexual person wishes to go to make a full and heartfelt confession then that is a good thing, but part of that confession must be the intent to turn away from their sin and amend their life

If all these things are in place, then of course a divorced and remarried person may come to communion. They do so with the intent of living as brother and sister until their previous marriages are declared null and they can be married before God in church. Likewise a homosexual person, after confession, who promises to live chastely may come to communion.

If they do not wish to receive the healing of confession then why do they want to come to communion anyway?

The only other answer is that they want the church to change her timeless teaching just for them. They want the church to say that their sin is not sin after all. They want the church to say that the way they are living is fine, that there is no scandal, that there is no sin and that there is no need for them to repent and amend their life.

But if the Catholic Church were to do that she would no longer be the Catholic Church. She would be something else.

Does this mean that all persons in this situation are rejected, condemned and hated by Catholics? No. Does this mean that we do not exercise pastoral care for them? No. Does this mean that we turn them away from the community just because they cannot receive communion? No.

We welcome them on the long, hard, heroic journey to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We work with them to be reconciled, to seek the way forward in purity and true love. We work with them and walk with them on the difficult path to chastity and radiant holiness.

Is this difficult? Of course. Is it painful? What did you expect when he said, “You must take up your cross and follow me?”

Is this hard for pastors too? Indeed it is. There are few things more troubling than to walk with those whose lives are broken by disappointed love, broken marriages and broken hearts.

But this is what we do. Acknowledging each person’s sin we extend God’s mercy–knowing that his mercy is often severe before it is soft and tough before it is tender.

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