The Church defines a Sacrament as, “Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ and conferred by the Church for our sanctification."
One facet of the Sacraments is the oath to the death. We simply do not receive a Sacrament. Before we receive a Sacrament, we offer the Lord an oath to the death. The collateral we offer for these oaths are our very lives. If we violate our oath, we forfeit our life and we enter a state of mortal sin. If we do not repent of this sin and receive forgiveness for it before we die we will spend eternity in hell.
This is why a civilly divorced and remarried Catholic cannot receive the Holy Eucharist. In the marriage vows Catholics take an oath until death do us part. The collateral on that oath is their lives. When they divorce and remarried they forfeit this collateral, meaning they no longer have it to offer as collateral on any other Sacrament, such as receiving the Holy Eucharist.
When we present ourselves at communion, we are taking an oath to live for Christ and die for him if necessary. The minister of communion holds up the Eucharist and says the words, “The Body of Christ.” Our response is, “Amen.” We say this before receiving our Lord. This is where we take our oath to the death.
As a deacon, I am an ordinary minister of Holy Communion. I get to see a lot of interesting situations of people receiving. There are two that are common and that I would like to comment on.
We have many husbands and wives who present themselves together to receive communion. This is a beautiful statement of love when they do this. I will always give communion to the husband first and then to his wife. I have had a few times where the husband refuses to receive before his wife. He loves his wife so much that he wants her to receive Jesus before he does. This is well intentioned, but misguided.
Likewise, we have many families who come up to receive together. In almost every case the father of the family allows the children and his wife to receive before he does. Again, this is also well intentioned, but misguided.
When we come up to receive our Lord in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we begin by pledging an oath to the death that we will live for Christ and die for him if necessary. This is a place where husbands and fathers need to lead their family, not follow. They need to show their families that this oath is something they should do.
It is commonly said that a husband’s or a father’s job is to get his wife and family to heaven. He does this by leading them, not pushing them. If terrorists were to take over a Mass and begin executing anyone who would not deny our Lord, a husband or father would be expected to lead the way and be an example to his wife and children how to die a good Christian death. What kind of husband or father would he be if he pushed his wife or children out to be executed before he is? It is not chauvinistic or womanizing in any way for a husband to lead his family. In reality it is just the opposite. It is the most loving thing he can do for them.
Authentic male leadership has been lost in our culture in this age. The evil one has convinced us that we must be equal in function in order to be equal in worth. This simply is not the case. Our worth in the eyes of God is not tied to our function. If we wish to honor him we need to learn to honor the function that he made us for.
If our culture is going to survive we need to restore males to the proper place of leadership within the family. The father is the head of the family. The evil one has destroyed the family by removing its head, the father. Every body that has been beheaded has no life within it. It is time for men to step up and lead in the way that Jesus did. Men need to lead through love and self-sacrifice for the other.
Husbands and fathers, lead your family to the Eucharist. Communion is not a buffet line where you allow your family to get fed first. You are taking an oath that you are presenting your life to cover. Show your family what that means and how to honor that oath.