Thursday, October 29, 2015
Offering and Receiving Our Lord Unworthily
With all of the talk on the synod blowing from the four corners of the blogosphere, I wanted to publish something I ran across today when I grabbed a book off of my shelf. Everyone is talking about people receiving communion regardless of the state of their soul. Catholic teaching has always taught that one who is in grave sin should not receive the Holy Eucharist. There are also other times where one should possibly refrain from receiving. As we know, the so called Kasper proposal was to make certain exceptions for the divorced and "remarried" on a case by case basis, dependent on the disposition of the person. So for example, maybe a women who wanted to remain faithful to her spouse was abandoned by her husband. Should she have to suffer becasue he did not live up to his promise?
We know that two wrongs can never make a right. Although it is not fair that the women wanted to keep faithful to her marriage does not give her the right to go out and shack up with someone else. Just because her husband sinned does not give her the right to also sin. Today in the Church the climate has changed substantially concerning moral questions such as these, and many bishops in the Church now are openly supporting such moral corruption. What of the clergy who support such immorality, and offer Holy Communion to those who are living in serious sin? What about those who know what the Church teaches on marriage and still go and receive Our Lord in their rebellious and sinful state? This is where my book that I randomly grabbed off the shelf by Gerald of Wales comes into play.
Gerald of Wales was born in 1145 or 1146 in Pembroke. He studied in Paris and was known as one the greatest teachers of his age, even if controversial at times. He was known as a reformer who wanted to combat the moral corruption in the Church of his day. Gerald took moral questions very seriously and did not tolerate sinful acts of Catholics around him. In fact, he once initiated the excommunication of the Sheriff of Pembroke for not returning oxen that he wrongfully confiscated, and also excommunicated a priest for having a concubine. Gerald was a competent theologian very familiar with the Fathers of the Church, and the work I have is known as 'The Jewel of the Church' where he covered many topics including those who give and receive the Eucharist unworthily. The writing is important because it gives us some insight into the mind of our Catholic forefathers, who are unfortunately now long forgotten. His bold language would surely cause most Catholics today to squirm, probably even our current pope, who seems to be little concerned for those who continue to offer and receive the Eucharist while not taking the faith seriously. Lets see what Gerald has to say about the matter.
"The Lord said of Judas, 'Behold, the hand of him who will betray Me on the table with Me.' He who presumes to violate the body of the Lord is like Judas, who betrayed the Son of Man. He who has neglected salutary fear and love is overcome by so sad and sinful a fall sells the Lord as Judas did. Augustine says: "They who knowingly hand Christ over to sinful persons sin more than he who handed Him over to the Jews to be crucified." These are sobering words indeed. Clergy who know that people are living in sin have a grave obligation to help them return to a state of grace before allowing them to receive the Blessed Sacrament. This is not done out of spite. Nor is it as some buffoons say, that they are using the Blessed Sacrament as a weapon. How many times have we heard such foolishness? Fortunately for us Gerald did not tolerate such nonsense.
As Catholics we should know Saint Paul's words where he says that those who receive the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Gerald continues to explain further what this unworthiness is. "Whoever approaches the Eucharist without devotion or with attachment to sin is guilty, because by receiving the good in an evil state he drags stain on the Sacrament and renders its benefits fruitless. Or "he will be guilty" could mean "he will inflict the pains of Christ's death," that is, "he will be punished as is if he had killed Christ."
Gerald thus puts this whole question into perspective, claiming that those who offer the Eucharist to people who they know are living lives contrary to the faith are more sinful than those who handed over Christ to be crucified. Also those who receive knowing that they are living lives opposed to Church teaching are also guilty and will be punished as if they had killed Christ. I don't know about you, but such sobering language should give us an idea of how sacred the Holy Eucharist is, and even those who think they are in a state of grace should have a reverent and devoted disposition if they are going to receive Him. As a side note, this also includes the way one attends Mass, which Gerald says should be "in the manner it was handed down" with devotion. Perhaps some pamphlets should have been handed out at the synod with some Gerald of Wales quotes on them, and maybe we would not have had such a Pollyannish document published at its conclusion.