November 2005 - Volume 10, Issue 4

Communion And Charity

By Rev. Paul N. Check


We have no greater treasure than the Holy Eucharist. Our Lord loves the Church so much that not only does He ensure His presence with her in the Blessed Sacrament, but He also eagerly desires to give Himself to her under the appearance of bread arid wine. For Catholics, the Eucharist is Jesus Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity. And because we love him, would not be without Him. Indeed, Jesus Himself makes plain how terrible that would be: "Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (fu 6:53)

Further, because we love Him, We would not wish to offend Him...especially by receiving Him when we know we are not worthy. St. Paul addresses this when he writes, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord." (1 Cor 11:27) With the words "unworthy manner," St. Paul refers in this passage to mortal sin, i.e. the loss of the state of grace, and so to the necessity of Confession prior to receiving Holy Communion. (Catechism of the Catholic Church; paragraphs 1385, 1457, 1861) To receive Communion in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege-a "profaning" in St, Paul's words-and itself another mortal sm. (CCC 2120)

As part of her mission to reach all nations (cf. Mt 28:19), the Church clarifies for us whether a sin is mortal Or venial. Indeed, when we pray the Creed, we acknowledge the Church's authority in this way with the line "We believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church." These words signify our trust that the Church speaks authoritatively to us in the name of Christ in matters relating to salvation, i.e,. faith and morals. It is the Church's task "to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error." (CCC 890)


So the Church establishes what it means to be "in communion" So that we might receive Communion. In brief, this means to be-to the best of our knowledge-in a state of grace (no mortal sins) and to profess the Faith and accept the teachings of the Church as she herself presents them. From the Catechism once more;: "The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church." (1395)

So serious arc these matters-again, because they touch the salvation (or loss) of souls-that in charity, the Church may withhold Communion from someone whose beliefs or practices are outside of those that the Church determines to be authentically "Catholic." Why in charity? Let's recall what charity is: "Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God." (CCC 1822) So the first object of charity is God Himself and the second object is the eternal good of a soul. If someone is not in full communion-either because of a wrong belief or a gravely immoral practice-then there is a loss of charity, which the Church urgently desires to restore.