This past Sunday I walked into the sacristy and informed the priest about to preside at Mass, “If President Biden shows up today for our 9 am Mass, I am sending him to your communion line…” I thought that was funnier than asking if the Cardinal approved saying “Trick or Treat” at Communion in lieu of it being Halloween.
While being a goof before Mass is one thing, disrespecting the Communion host is never acceptable. We pay homage to the body of Christ. God, physically in our midst.
Should President Biden receive communion? Of course not. But, neither should I. That is the part we seem to be missing. The President is presenting public scandal to the Church. Mine is much more private and yes, it is that “speck in your neighbor’s eye” thing. (Matt 7:3) At times, I fail at so many things: being a husband, father, brother, friend… Yet, I worry what others are doing?
We have to get out of this “pointing fingers” mentality. St. Paul reminds us that no one should receive communion while in a state of sin. In earlier times, this meant going to confession beforehand. That is not possible at most churches anymore. Yet, that is still not an excuse to avoid reflecting on our current disposition before joining the communion line. Note, this is my reflection on my state of grace – not anyone else’s.
God is judge. Period.
We all tend to forget that. Worse yet, many of us tend to live as if God can’t get it done unless we pitch in. Forget God judging the politician. We will do it for Him. While we are at it, God, move over. We’ll help run the rest of the universe as well.
We tend to forget that the God who created the universe is big enough to handle a few hypocrites. Perhaps their public scandal will weaken the faith. Woe to those who lead others astray. (Matt 18:6) But again, what about the times we’ve led people astray? Is that really anything different? Just because Fox News hasn’t reported it doesn’t mean that God hasn’t taken take note.
While knowing in my heart that I cannot cast “that first stone,” I often still feel compelled to publicly judge others. We learn in formation that “actions” can be judged by us, but “people” cannot. That is a pretty slim line for us to try and traverse.
So, the question remains, how do we deal with such public scandal?
We deal with it by getting radical and doing something that should be our default but, seems to always get placed last on our list of reactions. We must pray. Better yet, we must start believing again that prayer can make a difference. We need to turn off the noise in our lives and actually discern the emotions that are rising within us as they occur. Where are they coming from? What is the message for us in this state? Ignatius gave us all a gift in pointing this out.
What it really comes down to is whether we defend the Church through pointing out flaws in others or by rectifying those in us first. Have we prayed for an end of abortion? As importantly, what have we done about it? Have we worked to support pro-life candidates? Have we taught our children that life is sacred from conception to nature death? Do we turn off the television when homosexuality is promoted on the latest Hallmark movie? Have we voiced our concern that children should not be exposed to activist transgender agendas and worked to keep males out of girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms?
I’ve whined about all these things but, in reality, I have done little outside casting my single vote. Collectively, our inaction has opened the door for Satan to run havoc in our society. We can’t blame the Church, our priests and bishops or anyone else without first implicating ourselves.
It is pretty evident in Scripture that God has little use for the lip service that I give him. Reading the Old Testament is not peaceful to me. In the lives of the promised people, I see myself. People who question the timeliness of scripture have simply not read it. The writings of Sirach apply to me today as much as it did to those who first received them in ~2 B.C. Technology has certainly changed. People have not. Jesus competes with the false gods I chase in my life. Today, not centuries ago. He doesn’t lose in this, I do.
So, if we are really going to start working on loving “God with all your hearts, minds and souls” (Matt 22:34-40) we have a lot of work to do. Not on others, but ourselves. We need to start by examining our faith. Do I really believe that God runs the universe, and can I let go of the notion that I am in control? Faith in our heads is great for academic fodder. God wants our hearts more. He wants me to have a faith that has no doubt that God loves me and everything He has created. He wants me to have enough faith in Him to let go of the false gods that I have created. God wants me to pray and act on our faith through love and charity, not oppression and rejection. God demands that when I open my arms to him that I am also opening them for others as well.
If I believe that God can touch my heart, then I have to live with that openness to God touching others as well. A wise priest told me once that he didn’t know whether God has changed the heart of the person in line before him in communion, but he had the faith to let God’s will be done. Do we have faith that God can survive President Biden receiving communion? Is my response a public outcry that no one seems to hear or is it in prayer to a God that I know who listens?
If we want the world to change we have to be part of the change, not just commentators on what others are doing. Living our faith brings others along. Such a life stands for what is right, praises what is good and corrects what is going in the wrong direction. Our prayers are of thanksgiving, petition and praise. Our faith is a surrender to God and a giving up the false notion of control that has taken over our lives.
Our faith makes room for the Holy Spirit to accomplish its job. Not just in our lives but in every life. Focusing on our personal readiness for communion is a great start.