Must we forgive before receiving Communion?

During the Sign of Peace at Mass, we shake hands with or embrace our family and neighbors in the pews around us. We do this because Jesus instructed us to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters before approaching the altar with our gift. Denise in Philadelphia, PA, wondered: If you can’t forgive someone, then are you able to receive Communion?

“Jesus tells us that if we are at odds with our brother—meaning we haven’t forgiven from the heart—and since we are forgiven as we forgive and the measure with which we measure will be measured back to us, before we receive—before we make an offering at the altar, he says—you should be reconciled to your brother. Forgive him from the heart and then you can receive fruitfully,” replied Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father™ on Relevant Radio®.

“So, one of the worst things Christians can do, because it separates them from others and it separates them from God, is to refuse to forgive,” said Msgr. Swetland. “To refuse to forgive is to cut yourself off from God’s forgiveness and it cuts you off from that person or persons you refuse to forgive.”

“So you really shouldn’t receive Communion?” asked Denise.

“Not until you forgive the other, no. Talk to your confessor about this because that’s the right place to deal with this.”

What does it mean to forgive someone? “It doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory, no. It means that you want what’s truly good for the other. Now often, what’s truly good for the other that’s done harmful things is that they change, they be reconciled and quit doing the harmful things that hurt people,” explained Msgr. Swetland. “Often, the best thing that can happen to evildoers is that they face the consequences of their wicked actions, and none of that is bad, matter of fact we want that for people who need that to be transformed. But to forgive means that we don’t want them to suffer eternal loss—we don’t want them in hell … we want them to become the saints they are called to be. Because God loves all of us and we have to love what God loves if we are to love God … so we have to love even our enemies.”