When Receiving the Eucharist Becomes a Lie
Faithfully practicing Catholics often recoil at the contradictory nature of public figures’ actions and their claims of being Catholic. Especially when they continue their scandalous behavior and yet, present themselves for Holy Communion. How can, for example, the Speaker of the House claim to be faithfully Catholic, regularly receive the Eucharist, and yet vigorously fight for the right to abortion?
New York Andrew Cuomo presents an even more egregious example of scandal by a self-proclaimed Catholic politician. Last month he promoted, signed, and celebrated a new law allowing unrestricted abortion throughout all 40 weeks and up to birth. The repercussions have been many and loud as bishops are receiving thousands of requests, no demands, for Cuomo’s excommunication for this horrific law and its celebration.
Taking a Closer Look
At the heart of this moral battle lies a special set of beliefs held by the Catholic Church; they encompass acts that are intrinsically evil. According to the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. These intrinsically evil acts must always be rejected and never supported. A preeminent example is the intentional taking of human life through abortion.”
What is the Eucharist?
To understand the gravity of the unworthy reception of the Eucharist, one must examine exactly what Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) is. When referring to its fullest definition in the context of the Catholic faith, this faithful belief becomes clear. The words spoken by Jesus in scripture provide the full context.
“Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you…For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.” John 6:53-56
Jesus was not speaking symbolically and certainly made sure that everyone understood. When He first spoke of this, the Jews muttered among themselves,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” John 6:60
The Hard Saying
In reading further there is even more clarification, “After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him” because this was a “hard saying”. Continued reading of John 6 reveals the full impact felt by His followers. The Eucharist as Christ’s true Body caused many of His disciples to turn away from Him. If His words had been merely symbolic, there would have been no reason for their protest. His clear intent was the institution of the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life“.
Yet those disciples who remained responded loyally and with faith.
Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God. John 6:68-69
The Twelve made the choice to believe in the reality of the Eucharist and the Church has upheld this belief in faith ever since. The uninterrupted teaching of the Catholic Church is that the Eucharist contains our Risen Lord – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
What Reception of the Eucharist Says
Acknowledging the full impact of what this all means, instills a much deeper understanding of the Eucharist. With this deeper understanding, it is no longer possible to treat the Eucharist lightly. The Holy Eucharist is our unity with Jesus. Through Him, we are in communion with each and every one of our fellow Catholics. We have become what we have consumed, the Body of Christ.
The teachings of the Catholic Church have always been very clear about the requirements of receiving the Eucharist. The faithful disposition of those who present themselves to receive Him in the Eucharist is prerequisite. Communicants are to be free from serious moral impediments and are required to be in full communion with the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
Therefore, as we go forward to receive Him – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – we are making a public statement. We affirm, in reception of the sacrament, that we know Who is present in the Eucharist and that we fully subscribe to His laws.
“The Body of Christ”, as spoken by the priest, is confirmation of His Presence. Our required response is, “Amen”, meaning yes, I believe and affirm that this is truly the Flesh and Blood of the Son of God – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
Eucharist as Lie
Therefore, the act of receiving Holy Communion is a pledge of having a common faith, an intimate fellowship, with everything presented to the Body of Christ, which is His Church. Along with the Communion of Saints, we are bound to each other through Him Who binds us. Therefore, the act of receiving is a public pronouncement of unity.
If one stands up, publicly, to contradict a firmly held belief and then publicly presents himself as in communion with the Church, that action is a lie – perjury of the highest degree in the court of God. St. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 that we are to present ourselves worthily or we “eateth and drinketh damnation” to ourselves. It is no stretch, then, to surmise that receiving unworthily – especially in public, causing scandal – is akin to perjury. Because it is an oath not kept – a lie given in action.
So what are we to take away from all of this? Since intrinsic evils are not subject to change, individuals who perpetrate or formally cooperate in them are making a statement to themselves, the Church, and to society as a whole. In essence, they are saying, “We, with full knowledge of our willful disobedience, stand squarely against a dogma of the Church to which we proclaim to belong”.
In this way they publicly fly in the face of the most deeply held Catholic teachings, while going through the motions of being in full unity with the Church. This type of behavior, on the part of a public figure, constitutes scandal and presents the danger of leading the poorly catechized astray.
Canon 916. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess.
Respect the Eucharist
In the face of this terrible scandal, we must pray that other prelates take a cue from Bishop Daly as he recently barred all pro-abortion Catholic Politicians from receiving communion. It would be an act of spiritual kindness to prevent the offending legislators from the continual amassing of deadly sin upon deadly sin.
In addition, faith in the reality that is Eucharist is at an all-time low. As members of the Body of Christ, this affects us all, for as 1 Corinthians tells us, “if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it“. Let us join in communion with one another for the good of the whole. May God have mercy on us all – sinners that we are!