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My Dear Friends,

We begin a series of weeks with the Bread of Life Discourse. We kick off a corresponding Message Series called “Invited!” If I could encourage one thing, it would be to spend the next five weeks praying with the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In some ways it is the heart of our Catholic Life.

Our Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Source  and  the  Summit of our Christian Life. Sometimes we call it the Sacrament of Sacraments. Saint John Paul also taught that the Eucharist makes the Church (n.26), in that it is and also that it brings about our Communion. We are united with Christ and we are united with one another in the Body of Christ, above all by our reception of holy Communion.

When we speak of “communion” what does it mean? There are many layers and senses of this rich word. One of the important aspects to recognize with regard to communion is the degree to which it exerts requirements upon us. Coming into communion with the one true God demands a great deal from us. “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (Jn 14) Jesus implores us.

The demand of conformity to the will of God becomes evident when we look to other passages of the sacred scriptures. Two in particular help us to appreciate this reality. First, during the great wedding feast (Mt 22:1-14), despite the fact that everyone from the highways and byways is invited (we could say the social riff raff) a wedding garment is expected. While the invitation is open and non-exclusive, attending the feast does require some decisive preparation. Many of the Fathers of the Church understood the garment to relate to our baptismal robe: a sign that we no longer belonged to the world but to the Bridegroom, Christ Jesus. And that garment must be donned unstained so as to be admitted. This question arose when Paul wrote to the Christian community at Corinth. He noted that many were presenting themselves for holy communion unworthily, meaning with true awareness of its significance and call. So Paul reasons, “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying,” (1 Cor 11:30). Paul sees a real consequence to inappropriate reception of this most august Sacrament.

We can apply this reality to our own lives. Do we come for the Lord’s Day in our “Sunday best?” And more importantly, do our hearts reflect the care of our exterior preparation? In other words, are our spirits as dapper as our dress? For this reason, the Church - the guardian of Communion - proscribes at least annual confession of sins before reception of the Eucharist. As your spiritual father, I routinely recommend: winter, spring, summer and fall. Jesus is always keen to point to the interior. Our hearts are the real source of iniquity in our lives (see Mt 15:11).

It is a serious matter to present ourselves for holy Communion. None are worthy. We confess the same at each holy Mass. But for those who profess publicly beliefs that tear apart the very heart of our communion, participation in the Sacrament is hypocrisy. Hence the reason many Bishops have written publicly against so-called Catholic politicians who profess to be Catholic but regularly defend and advance policies that directly assault the Faith and our way of life. There is no room at the altar for those who espouse pro-choice positions, and I hope the document our Bishops are preparing once again makes that clear. Previous writings  of our Bishops have articulated the same, so this shall not be a new teaching. The same can be said for those who seek to redefine marriage as something more than one man and one woman coming together in a lifelong covenantal sacrament. It is not one issue that causes the rift but any teaching not in accord with the demands of the Gospel.

All Catholics are invited to holy Communion. But participation in communion is a deep, rich and multi-layered reality. Above all, to receive communion means we are striving with our whole beings to live in accord with the demands of the Gospel. As your pastor, I fear many Catholics today do not appreciate those demands.

Yours in the Lord,
Fr. Joel Wilson