When I first converted to Catholicism I carried with me much Lutheran baggage. I professed that the Catholic Church held the fullness of the truth, yet, like so many Catholics today believed that it was wrong on some very important points. I let my pride guide my mind as I set forth to prove where and why the Church was wrong.
My biggest beef was in the way the Church distributed communion. She freely shared the word of God with anyone who would listen but she reserved the body of God to a select few who met a certain criteria. The Church teaches that you have to be in a state of grace to receive communion. Aren’t sinners the ones who really needed the Lord the most? Didn’t Jesus himself say that the healthy are in no need of a doctor and he came to heal the sick?
My logic was sound. Sound logic is what made people like Luther and Calvin so popular during the reformation. As sound as my logic sounded to me at the time it was never the less still wrong. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. The Catholic faith begins with the Eucharist, is centered in it, and ends with it. To question the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist is to question the very foundation of the faith. Had I really converted or was I just another Catholic in name only?
If we liken mortal sin to a cancer that destroys a soul then we need a very powerful chemo to kill the cancer. The Eucharist is not that chemo. The Eucharist does not remove the stain of mortal sin from a person’s soul. The Church does possess the chemo that destroys the cancer. It is the most powerful type of chemo that can destroy even the most aggressive and deadly cancer. This chemo is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus gave the Church the authority to forgive sin. Jesus gave the Church the medicine to heal those dying from the cancer that devours souls. Forgiveness is the strongest medicine known to man. It is the antidote to the poison we let into our lives.
So if the Eucharist is not a medicine what is it? The Eucharist is the ultimate super vitamin. It takes a healthy body to the next level. The Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. When we take the Eucharist into our bodies we are forming a very personal and intimate relationship with him. He lives in us and he dwells in us. If we release our will to his we become one. So why can’t a person receive the Lord at this level unless they are in a state of grace? Why does the Church keep Christ from those who do not believe this simple truth?
Sometimes people are so sick, their bodies so weak, that the cure would kill them. Before we can treat the cancer we have to treat the person to get them strong enough to survive the cure for the cancer. To a healthy body the Eucharist is a super vitamin that will bring the person to the closest state of perfection they can obtain on this side of heaven. To a sick person the Eucharist can be deadly. Saint Paul tells us very clearly that those to receive the Eucharist unworthily bring death upon themselves. When a sinner, who knows that they have committed grave sin, thumbs their nose at the Church and takes the Eucharist anyway they do so at the risk of serious peril.
The Church knows and understands this and that is why communion is restricted to those who hold this understanding of what the Eucharist is and who, to the best of their knowledge, are in a state of grace. The Church has the authority granted to her by Jesus to heal the disease with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then strengthen body and soul with the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. These “medicines” have to be administered in the correct order to be affective. One without the other or administered in the wrong order can be deadly.
There is one less bag I will be carrying through this life. Fortunately for me it was also the heaviest.