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Saturday, 5 June 2010

If Catholics Actually Believed What They Say They Believe....

... could you imagine it?
I think one problem is that we are so rational, so post-modern, so cynical and skeptical, that many of us use, or rather waste the scintilla of ability we have to wrap our minds around the supernatural, the implausible, the wondrous, on .... vampires. Or space aliens. Or the deadly power of mentos and diet soda.

Okay, I'm being snarky, but this is the case -- if you cannot believe in the supernatural, you cannot believe in God's Grace, and you cannot believe in the efficacy of the Sacraments as a conduit for that Grace.

Which is why people in positions of authority denigrate Confession, think the real point of the Anointing of the Sick is gathering your community to pray for you, and postpone infant Baptism until a convenient time for them, when they can gather a passel of infants, and get all the initiations over with at once, (acknowledging that the Sacrament of Baptism is not primarily about getting your membership card would be to acknowledge our need for Sanctifying Grace, which would require acknowledging the existence of Original Sin. How unpleasantly quaint.)

And Communion?
What are the effects of that Sacrament? what should they be? and how much more could they be if we didn't make God do all the work?
Provocative opening from Msgr. Charles Pope:
Some people put more faith in Tylenol than they do in Holy Communion. That’s because when they take Tylenol they expect something to happen. But many people don’t really expect anything to happen when they receive Holy Communion.

In fact this is a problem that is present for many in regard to all the Sacraments and to liturgy in general. Many seem these things as tedious rituals rather than transformative realities. How many people really reflect that, in the Sacred Liturgy, Jesus is ministering to them? It is a sad truth that for many the liturgies of the Church are rather mindlessly attended: Sit, stand, say Amen, recite the Creed but all rather absent-mindedly

But how many really expect to be changed by the Liturgy the attend? How many expect to hear a Word proclaimed and preached that will powerfully change the way they think and see the world? How many expect to actually encounter Jesus Christ and be changed forever by that encounter? How many expect to receive communion and to be marvellously helped by this reception in ways far beyond what Tylenol or any other medicine could ever do in the physical order?

Sadly, expectations are very low among the people of God. The blame can begin with the clergy who have not often taught the faithful to expect dramatic conversion of any kind let alone from receiving Holy Communion. But the blame does not end with the clergy. The fact is low expectations can sometimes be developed as a kind of strategy by many who fear change and see authentic conversion and true holiness as a fearful thing or as requiring just too much of what they would rather not surrender. And so expectations remain low, perhaps out of ignorance or perhaps out of fear and aversion.

On this Feast of Corpus Christi, What do you expect from receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Communion?

I can only say that I expect to become Christ. I will say it has not happened in an instant. But rather, incrementally, organically. But, as I have been faithful to Holy Communion, to prayer, scripture, Confession and the liturgy, I have experienced dramatic change. I have seen sins be put to death. I have more joy in the Lord, I am more confident and serene, less anxious and resentful. I love more, am more compassionate and have more understanding. I do not fear most of the things that I used to fear. I am less greedy and more generous.

I do not boast here since it is not I who have done any of this. It’s just Jesus in me. I am not what I want to be but I am not what I used to be. I am becoming the One I receive in Holy Communion. And I promise you the same. If you are faithful to the Sacraments, God will heal you. You will become holier each day. It may seem imperceptible on a day to day basis, but it is underway. It is true there are some setbacks along the way, but even these can bless us if we let them give us humility. Holiness will grow if we but take our medicine.

What do you expect from Holy Communion? I promise you, in the Lord Jesus Christ that if you are faithful to Confession, Communion, prayer, and the Liturgy, I promise you vigorous progress and ultimate perfection: ….being confident in this that God who has begun a good work in you bring it to perfection (Phil 1:6)


Charles said...

Which is why I ponder why we don't reconsider the practice that our Eastern brothers/sisters (eg. Byzantines) obviously do not consider problematic-Communion after baptism.

Scelata said...

I'm all for it because of the power it would take out of the hands of parish DREs, but such reasoning merely betrays my sinful nature....

Seriously, I do agree with it, restore the correct order for the Sacraments of Initiation.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)