Sacramental Theology teaches a key principal that all Catholics should know so as to derive the most abundant graces that flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Sacraments. This key principal is called Dispositive Grace. What this term means, in clear and unequivocal terms, is that you receive graces from the Sacraments in direct proportion to your disposition of heart and preparation of soul.
Sacraments are like fire. Fire can do immense good, but it can also do immense damage. On a cold winter night, nothing more sweet and enjoyable than a sparkling, sparking, cackling bundle of flames in a chimney in the living room of your home.
On the other hand, fires that are not contained can cause huge forest fires. In California, fires have been known to extend from San Diego County, through the County of L.A. reaching as far as Ventura County, cutting and burning through thousands of acres of land, devouring and consuming homes.
St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, warns us to be aware of whom it is we are receiving. Some were eating and drinking and ignoring the poor and then celebrating the Meal of the Lord—the most Holy Eucharist— in this ill-disposed condition.
The fiery Apostle to the Gentiles fiercely reprimands those who would receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, in such a condition. For that reason St. Paul said that some were eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Our Lord unto their own condemnation. The same Apostle exhorted them as well as the Church at large (and that includes you and me) to be sure that we are in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion.
How does this apply to you and me as well as Catholics at large in the modern world in which we live, where the conscience has been so poorly formed over the last half-century?
The Catechism has taught for centuries, with respect to the reception of Holy Communion—the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—that we must be in the state of grace. Reception of the Eucharist requires that our soul be in the state of grace to receive Jesus worthily and receive the innumerable graces available for our peace of mind, joy of spirit, growth in holiness and eternal salvation for all eternity.
Mortal Sin: Hold Off
If you are aware of having committed a mortal sin, then you should abstain from receiving Holy Communion, simple and clear. Otherwise this will be a Sacrilegious Communion, the fire that burns, damages and destroys your soul rather than the fire that heats and warms.
Probably you are thinking to yourself: “what then is a mortal sin?” I have heard the terminology years ago, but I forgot the definition. Good question, and here is our answer!
To commit a mortal sin there are three conditions.
- A Grave Matter. The sin that is committed is serious or grave by its very nature. Sins against the Sixth Commandment are by their nature grave or serious. Missing Holy Mass on Sunday, without any justifiable reason, is grave/serious matter—to give just a couple examples.
- Full Knowledge. A mortal sin is not committed if the person committing it is not aware of it. However, as followers of Christ, we are morally responsible and obliged to make it a constant effort in our lives to study and learn our faith on a constant basis. This is called Permanent Formation. Some people, due to negligence and laziness, make no effort to grow in the knowledge of their faith. This is culpable ignorance that should be corrected.
- Full Consent of the Will. Finally, to commit a mortal sin, one has to give free and total consent of the will. This means that a mortal sin is not done by accident, as if one were to slip on a banana peel. No! You know it is serious and you do it anyway against your conscience.
If these three conditions are present, then it constitutes a mortal sin. By committing a mortal sin, the state of sanctifying grace is lost thereby excluding one from the reception of the Holy Eucharist until….
Sacramental Confession. Yes! So as to be able to receive the most Holy Eucharist worthily, as faithful and practicing Catholics, we must have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, Reconciliation, or if you like The Sacrament of God’s infinite Mercy.
All too often today, even among Catholics you hear, “well I confess directly to God because He knows me, sees me, hears me and loves me.” If you are a Protestant, that is one thing, but not as a practicing Catholic. You must receive forgiveness through the proper means or channel that Jesus has determined through His Church and through the reception of the Sacrament of Forgiveness and through the presence of the ordained priest. When the priest absolves you: “And I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” then it is not so much that the priest forgives you (He is only the instrument), rather it is Jesus Himself who forgives you and washes you clean through His Precious Blood that was shed on the cross on Good Friday.
Worthy Communions. Then after having received the Sacrament of Confession, Holy Communion can be received in the state of grace and will serve as the most powerful means of sanctification and eternal salvation.
A Warning on Routine Communion. A real danger for many Catholics is the danger of falling into the terrible pitfall of the “The Routine Communion”. In other words, Mass and Holy Communion are available in abundance and I receive Holy Communion with little preparation, poor participation in Holy Mass, with a cold heart and literally no thanksgiving after I have received the Eucharistic Lord. Jesus complained to St. Faustina because He said that many receive Him as if He were a mere object! How terrible it is when we ourselves are treated like mere “objects” by others. How much worse when Jesus is treated as a mere object—Remember, Jesus is God.
In the sacristies of the convents of some nuns there is a reminder usually in eye’s view of the priest celebrant with this catchy admonition: “Priest, man of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.” Should we not approach Holy Communion with the same disposition of heart—to receive Jesus with great fervor and faith and love as if it were our first Holy Communion, last Holy Communion, and only Holy Communion? If that is our disposition of soul, Holy Communion will definitely be the most powerful means for our constant sanctification and eternal salvation.