Should we be doing this more often?
There's much being written about the forthcoming Synod on the Family. Of course, its being reduced in the media to a one issue event but I'm sure that it will be much broader than that. However, on that one issue I wonder why we single out the divorced and remarried as not in the right position to receive Holy Communion. Perhaps we should be looking at the issue from another perspective. Why is it that all the other sins, difficulties and human failings that abound among the fallen humanity that fill our churches are not given much attention? The link between receiving Holy Communion and preparing oneself for it by Confession seems to have been completely abandoned. It seems there are no sins left that might exclude someone from receiving Holy Communion. Why is that?
Seems like everyone needs to go to Confession sometime.
We now concentrate on receiving to the exclusion of almost everything else. The Sunday Obligation seems to be not to be in attendance at Mass but to receive Holy Communion. As though, influenced by our consumer society, it doesn't count unless we "get something".
This flows through to those who might receive Communion at home. It seems an increasingly frequent model that many people who are listed as "housebound" as far as getting to church is concerned can actually get out to the shops, to the day centre, to visit relatives and even go on holiday, and yet they have been encouraged to expect that they can to receive Communion at home.
My classic example of this came some years ago when I received a phone call from a lapsed gentleman who told me that a priest he'd met in a church while on holiday in Malta had suggested that, as he had walking difficulties, he might get his parish priest back home to bring him Holy Communion each week. The gentleman was somewhat put out when I tentatively suggested that as he'd managed to get to Malta all by himself he might just be able to make it to his local parish.
Another incident was told to me by a priest friend who, on asking if the "housebound" recipient might not be able to get up to church as she had not been home on his previous two attempts to call, received the reply, "O Father, its as much as I can do to struggle up to the off-licence these days."
But I digress...
There are many reasons to abstain from receiving Holy Communion. Being divorced and remarried is one of them in the Church's teaching. However, such folk would not feel so marked out if all the rest of us abstained when we were not supposed to receive as well. The daily gossip who hasn't been to Confession for 20 years could remain with them in the pews making a spiritual communion. The family that only come to Mass once a month could likewise swell the ranks of non communicants. I'm guessing that there are very many in sin - either serious or habitual - who have not been to Confession for long enough to make it suitable that we should not be receiving Holy Communion every time they come to Mass.
I'm not suggesting that no one should ever come but the desire to encourage everyone up every time seems to cheapen the Sacrament, to make it less awesome and more everyday. Presumably a concentration on being in a state of grace was what led to so few receiving Holy Communion that the Church came to enforce at least a yearly reception - along with Confession, of course. What we used to call Easter Duties. We need not go back to that state of play but perhaps we have travelled too far in the other direction. The result is that only those whose failings are publicly known - that is, those in irregular marriages - are forced to abstain from receiving Holy Communion. An honest appraisal of many other failings - real but not recorded in marriage registers - might lead to us taking the reception of Holy Communion with more seriousness.
Its not the Church's teaching on marriage that is faulty but perhaps Her teaching on receiving the Holy Eucharist, as commonly perceived and lived out in most places, needs a little adjusting.
It might also remind us that the Mass is not just about receiving, about "getting something" but it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and about us giving something to Him - our worship of Almighty God. It is a thing in itself. Simply being in the presence of it is a source of grace, of comfort and of hope. In itself, it is the act of Our Lord on Calvary - we can "get" plenty form it just by being there and acknowledging it as such.