“A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to… receive the Body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession…” (Canon Law 916)
A lot of Canon law defies my comprehension; it dizzies my head and makes me put the book down as I fall back into something not unlike a faint. But the above-cited Canon 916 is clear. I think perhaps Holy Mother Church made Canon 916 so simple for folks like me. In case we got ourselves all mixed up and confused, she wanted to make herself perfectly clear.
As Catholics, we believe in transubstantiation — that the Host is transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ during the Consecration at Mass. When one receives Communion unworthily, then Christ’s Body is profaned, and we bring judgment upon ourselves. Receiving our Lord unworthily may even make us sick. “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. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” (1 Cor 11:27-28)
When we are at Mass, we shouldn’t saunter up to Communion as if we are in line at a cafeteria to get cookies and milk. We must prepare our souls for Communion, fasting for at least one hour prior, and also examine our consciences. If we are rightly disposed, then each Communion helps us grow in sanctifying grace. But if we are not, then each Communion only does more damage to our souls. If we were willfully to receive Communion while in a state of grave sin, then we would be committing another grave sin called a sacrilege. One problem with being obstinate in sin is that with each successive Communion we heap more sacrilege, and thus more sin upon ourselves.
It is unpopular today to think one might not be admitted to anything and everything. In our “touchy” society we become offended if anyone is left out of anything. Our “tolerant” culture makes it difficult to handle the following truth: Communion is not always for everyone. It is only for everyone, if everyone is in a state of grace.
Is it possible that in today’s world all Catholics going to Communion are in a state of grace? If everyone was in a state of grace, then why is it so easy to observe in most churches that the length of the confession line on Saturday is typically a micro-milli-fraction of the length of the Communion line on Sunday? Could it be because, in our pornographic-adulterous-promiscuous-abortive-homosexual-inebriated culture, Catholics are committing only venial sins? One would hardly believe so.
It seems that these days while most Catholics like to receive Communion, few like to repent. And this is understandable to me. I am part of a Catholic un-catechized generation, after all. My un-catechized self drifted through grammar school, high school, college and into marriage attending Mass after Mass after Mass. One day, a priest stood at the pulpit, talking about sin and sacrilege and the need for confession. I was dumb-founded. This priest also discussed Our Lady’s request at Fatima that we attend confession once a month. Since that time, I brought my un-catechized self into confession, and have tried, through books, DVD’s, CD’s and study, to re-catechize myself. The Catholic faith is so rich and so deep, that I plan to do this my entire life. And when my life is done, I still won’t get it all.
As adults, we are responsible for our own spiritual growth. Although God can put in our hearts a love for Catechetical and Biblical study, it can not be forced down our throats. Priests willing to stand at the pulpit and preach difficult Catechetical truths of the faith will help inspire and strengthen us. So will prayer.
May we be granted the grace to see our sins in the way they are seen by our Lord. With a turn from sin and to confession, may we may sanctify our souls and purify our hearts as we seek Him with love and receive Him in grace. Perhaps the time has come for churches to stop counting activities, and start counting the number of souls who seek forgiveness through confession. When that number approaches the number of souls who come to Communion, this will be a sign that true renewal is at work in the Catholic Church.