Called to Communion

Question: The priest quotes Jesus at Mass, saying, “Take this all of you and eat of it.” There are no caveats like, “unless you are divorced, gay or any number of other qualifiers.” Jesus gave the bread to Judas. Shouldn’t the Church act as Jesus did and remove the caveats and qualifiers Jesus never had?

Bill McKenna, via email

Answer: The same Jesus you (rightly) extol as our model is the one who forbade divorce and remarriage, calling the second union an ongoing state of adultery (Mt 19:1-12). He also forbade illicit sexual union of other sorts, calling it lust that risked the fires of Gehenna (hell) (Mt 5:27-30). Further, through his appointed spokesmen, the apostles (Lk 10:16; Acts 1:8), he also makes clear in numerous places (e.g. Rom 1:18-32, Eph 5:1-20) that acts of fornication, adultery and homosexual acts exclude one from the kingdom of God, as do other serious sins.

Whether Jesus gave Judas Communion or not is debatable (i.e., which bread did Jesus give him?); but let’s just say that he did receive Communion. Note that the result for Judas was not sanctification but suggests more the effects of sacrilege. Scripture says, “After (Judas) took the morsel, Satan entered him” (Jn 13:27).

And this sad effect on Judas is illustrative of St. Paul’s later teaching that it is a very bad idea to receive holy Communion in a state of serious sin, because it brings further condemnation and provides a deeper stronghold for Satan. St. Paul writes, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for 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” (1 Cor 11:27-29).

So it would seem that there are what you call “qualifiers.” Further, your view that the words of the Lord, “Take this all of you,” should be understood univocally is not supported by other Scripture passages that require certain things of those who receive. There surely is a general call to “all” to receive, but that call presupposes that we discern the body of the Lord and are able to receive holy Communion in a worthy manner (i.e., free from mortal sin).

Praise from creation

Question: In the psalms and canticles of the Liturgy of the Hours, there are frequent calls for plants and animals and even concepts like light and darkness to praise the Lord. But how can animals and plants or rocks and hills or darkness praise the Lord? Most of these have no will or minds.

Sharon Kurchiwinski, Chicago

Answer: Language is not always used in a technical sense. Language also has creative and allegorical (figurative) senses. The Scriptures are, as you note, filled with references to creation. Creation, of course, does not praise God consciously or by an act of will as angels and human beings do. Rather, creation praises God by its very existence and by revealing some particular aspect of God’s glory, who made it.

In calling on all creation to “praise” or “bless” the Lord, we are recognizing this and joining our conscious and intellectual voices to the allegorical “voice” of all creation, which “shouts” to us in our intellect the glory of our common Creator.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.