It is better to confess one’s sins than to harden one’s heart. — Pope Saint Clement I, 1st Century
As you are all aware, Lent is a disciplined season of repentance, a time for us to reflect on our lives and examine the ways that we choose to distance ourselves from God when we sin. It is a time when we are called to conform our lives more perfectly to our Lord.
It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: The REAL Presence of Christ is in the Holy Eucharist. It’s not a symbol, not a metaphor— we truly believe that Jesus Christ is present in the consecrated hosts distributed at communion: Body and Blood. Soul and Divinity.
Because Holy Eucharist is not symbolic, but the Real Presence, the way that we treat Holy Eucharist is important. You’ve probably noticed the reverent handling of the sacred species by the priest which highlights the profound respect that is desired by our Lord. This translates into the reverent reception of Holy Eucharist by the Faithful. Catholics either receive Holy Communion on the tongue, or in the hand (But with the hands held high! As you’ve heard me say “On a throne with palm on palm— not in a clam shell!). Why? Because we must believe that the host is now Jesus Christ, and we want to honor His presence.
Sometimes, the greatest respect we can show to the Holy Eucharist is not receiving Communion at all, when we know we are not in a state of grace to do so. If you are Roman Catholic, and not in a state of grace (or not Roman Catholic), the Church asks you to refrain from receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. You might have seen this type of message in an order of worship at a Catholic wedding, or heard me preach about it from time to time. This might seem stark and punitive, but if you truly believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it makes sense to only receive Him when you are truly prepared, as when you are in a state of grace. As Fr. Lino Otero, LC so eloquently puts it:
And one deadly routine is to receive the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin. We pretend to cultivate a friendship with our Lord and receive him in the Eucharist and yet, we do not bother to ask for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. [When someone stays back in the pew and does not receive] it tells me that they take the Eucharist very seriously and that they are aware that receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist requires a preparation.
In reflecting upon your spiritual state, if you feel unworthy to receive Him, feel free to step back into the pew as parishioners line up, and perhaps make an Act of Contrition, committing yourself to reunite with the Lord through the merciful sacrament of Penance.
Msgr. Ross A. Shecterle
P.S. Blessed Lent to all of you! Perhaps, as a reminder since Lent is halfway over… go to Confession!
Memento Mori (Remember, you will die)