Have you ever thought about whether or not you should receive Holy Communion when you attend Mass? The USCCB says that we are encouraged to receive Communion “devoutly and frequently”, but did you know that you shouldn’t receive the Body and Blood of Christ if you are not in a state of grace? Code of Canon Law 916 states that a person who is conscious of a grave sin should not receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason with no opportunity for confession.
Earlier this year, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, reminded the faithful “to avoid receiving Communion if you’re living a life that contradicts the Gospel,” said Fr. Matthew Spencer, host of St. Joseph’s Workshop on Relevant Radio®. “I know that’s not very politically correct. People want to say, ‘Who are you to judge if I can go to Communion or not?’ Well, he’s saying we have a personal responsibility, each one of us to examine our life and say, ‘Am I in a state’—I almost said, ‘Am I worthy to receive Holy Communion’, I mean, when are we actually worthy to receive Jesus? We’re never in and of itself worthy, right?”
To receive Communion, we must be in communion with Jesus and His Church. “Jesus will forgive us our venial sins even at the beginning of Mass and will make us, by His grace, prepared and ready to receive Holy Communion. And it’s always a great gift; it’s not any intrinsic thing that we’ve done to deserve that encounter with Jesus in Communion, but at the same time there are moments when we need to recognize whether we are not prepared to go to Communion. When we are not ready because of our lifestyle, because of the way that we’re living certain relationships or certain patterns of behavior, rejecting Jesus’ teaching to a certain degree where it becomes grave, mortal, and now affects my ability to enter into Communion in that way.”
Bishop Davies’ is important for all of us to understand, not just politicians and those whose actions are publicly scrutinized. “And it was an important reminder because the Church hasn’t changed her teaching on this at all, even though sometimes it seems like in the world that people think, ‘Well, I can receive Communion, God understands. I haven’t been to confession for forty years but I don’t like doing that anyway—I’d rather just go to Communion and Jesus will forgive me my sins at that point.’ It’s a presumption on God’s mercy,” says Fr. Matthew.
“Sometimes we can become desensitized to the magnitude of that encounter in Communion,” says Fr. Matthew. Are you fostering the desire to be in communion with Our Lord? The good news is if you aren’t in a state of grace, you can fix it! “[Jesus] himself has put in place the means for us to be able to go to Communion with a … well-formed, clear conscience.” Now is the time to go to confession and make a good act of contrition, resolving to detach yourself from sin and continually strive to live according to the Gospel.