10th March

This is an excerpt from today’s gospel passage.

You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. (Emphasis added.)

Pope Benedict XVI gives the communion to a nun during a solemn mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanThis is in keeping with the Church teaching (based especially on 1 Corinthians 11) that we cannot approach the altar to receive Holy Communion when we are not in communion (common-union) with God and neighbour. This happens when we separate ourselves from God and neighbour by committing grave / moral sin. We must first repent and seek reconciliation through the Sacrament of Confession and possibly making amends to the offended brethren. If we receive the sacrament of Holy Communion (Common-Union) whilst being separated we abuse the Eucharist and commit another most grave sin called a ‘sacrilege’.

Here in this diocese of Raphoe the bishop is concerned about this malpractice. In his pastoral directives to priests he asks that at ‘special’ Masses attended by possibly lapsed Catholics – like funerals, weddings, Christmas, Easter, First Holy Communions, etc – the following announcement is read out before the distribution of Holy Communion.

We wish respectfully to remind you that in order to receive Holy Communion worthily: You should believe that it is the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; you must be in a state of grace, free of all grave or mortal sin; it is necessary to make an individual Confession and receive absolution if you are aware of grave sin as defined by the Church; you must fast for an hour before receiving Holy Communion.

As regards attending Mass, Canon 1247 states that “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass; they are also to abstain from those labours and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body.” The obligation to attend Mass is affirmed in the Catechism which states “Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit grave sin” (#2181). Therefore, Confession is required before receiving Holy Communion together with the intention to enter a new life of love and faithfulness to Christ and his Church. Other Christians who are not Catholics are also asked to respect our differences by not receiving. They may come up for a blessing.

When I concelebrate at such ‘special’ Masses where an announcement is not made, I discretely withdraw from the distribution of Holy Communion so as not to be complicit in the abuse of the Blessed Sacrament.