I have thankfully talked our beloved Deacon into allowing me to post his sermons as guest posts here at The Littlest Way. I will keep his and all other sermon posts from various priests and deacons under the title, Everything is Grace. This sermon was delivered on the Feast of Corpus Christi, “…the Catholic liturgical solemnity celebrating the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the Eucharist—known as transubstantiation.”
In the Gospel today, Jesus said, ‘He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him.’ This intimate union with our Lord is the ‘principle fruit of Holy Communion.’ It’s one of seven fruits of Holy Communion the Catechism talks about. And just as we’d like to know what might be the fruit of our labor- whether at school, at work, or in the garden- likewise, it’s reasonable to want to know the fruits of Holy Communion and expect them. We’ll examine those fruits in a moment.
On the other hand, the Epistle warns us against eating this bread or drinking the chalice of the Lord unworthily. For if we do, we eat and drink judgment upon ourselves. So we’ll also want to consider what hinders that fruit of Holy Communion and also look at the consequences of not abiding in Him, through mortal sin. First the fruits (CCC, 1391-1400.)
1. The first fruit of Holy Communion, as I mentioned, is an intimate union with Christ. By receiving the Eucharist we share in His divine life. The Eucharist is life-giving. Recall that line from the sequence: ‘the Bread both living and life-giving.’ It gives life through the Holy Spirit by preserving, increasing and renewing the life of grace received at Baptism. Holy Communion provides spiritual nourishment on this earthly pilgrimage.
2. The second fruit is that it cleanses us from our past sins and preserves us from future sins. (Keep in mind though, receiving Holy Communion does not wash away our mortal sins. We must go to Confession for that.)
3. The third fruit of Holy Communion is that it strengthens our charity which tends to be weakened in daily life. By giving Himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in Him.
4. The fourth fruit is that the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in His friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from Him by mortal sin.
5. The fifth fruit is the unity of the Mystical Body. The Eucharist makes the Church. Holy Communion unites the faithful more closely as one body, in Christ.
6. The sixth fruit is that the Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must then recognize Christ in the poorest, His brethren.
7. Finally, the seventh fruit of the Eucharist is unity of Christians. Ecclesial communities separated from the Catholic Church have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery…especially because of the absence of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. These divisions are painful and move us to urgent prayer for complete unity among all who believe in Him.
Those are the seven fruits of Holy Communion the Catechism discusses. We should long for these fruits in our lives and in the Church. But what could hinder or prevent those fruits altogether? For us to abide in Jesus and He in us we must eat the Body and Blood of our Lord worthily.
If we commit a mortal sin, Jesus does not abide in us nor will we be with Him in heaven. Mortal sin causes the death of the soul. We are deprived of God’s graces and we lose all merit and cannot gain any merit by any deed until we repent of the mortal sin.
St. Alphonsus said, ‘…when a Christian consents to mortal sin, he says to God: depart from me; make room for the devil, whom I wish to serve.’ The Catechism says, ‘immediately after death, the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’
We must go to confession if we commit a mortal sin before we receive Holy Communion, otherwise, we commit a sacrilege, which is another mortal sin, of a worse kind.
To miss Mass on Sunday without a serious reason, or to purposely view pornography, or to commit adultery or to have pre-marital relations, or to use artificial contraception and then to receive Communion is a sacrilege. These sins must be confessed. We receive absolutely no graces when we receive Communion in the state of mortal sin and in fact, we eat and drink judgment on ourselves.
But our soul can be restored to grace. In confession, Jesus gives us His infinite mercy and opens our souls to once again to the fruits of Holy Communion.
There are other things that we should be aware of in which Holy Communion will bear little or no fruit.
One would be if we ignore His presence after we receive Him. The almighty God, out of His infinite love and goodness comes to dwell in our heart in Holy Communion, to give us special graces, and yet some people walk out of Church after receiving Holy Communion and ignore His true presence. It’s like inviting someone to your house, letting them in and then going out the back door without paying any attention to who just came to your home. This hurts Jesus because He comes inside the heart in Holy Communion and He is ignored. How can we expect any fruit if we are indifferent to Jesus abiding in us?
Another way we can diminish the fruits of Holy Communion is how we receive Him. Do we approach Communion like we are approaching a great king, with all due reverence and respect? Well, we should because Jesus is our heavenly King! Do we receive Communion reverently and with devotion, bearing in mind that we are taking God made Flesh into our very bodies? Yet, this is indeed the reality.
The Church permits receiving Communion on the hand but the universal discipline of receiving on the tongue has not changed. The ordinary way is on the tongue. Receiving on the hand is the extraordinary way. In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave an indult- special permission- to receive Communion in the hand due to certain abuses in Holland and other places. The Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship gave warnings about receiving on the hand: it said,
•It could be an occasion of regarding the Eucharist as ordinary bread…or treating it as though it was just another religious article.
•It warned about particles of the Eucharistic bread that may fall or be scattered.
•It said care must be taken that the communicants have clean hands and that their comportment is becoming.
•It warned about the faithful being shocked by how some received Communion.
•It was concerned about the danger of irreverence towards the Eucharist.
•It warned there might be lessening of faith in the Real Presence and that catechesis on Christ’s real and permanent presence must accompany Communion in the hand.
I would say many, if not all, of those concerns were spot on.
I’ve seen that lack of faith portrayed in lots of ways by people presenting themselves for Communion.
Because of this crisis of faith, many are starting to rethink the issue. For example, the bishop in Madison, Wisconsin last year asked the people to receive on the tongue. When Pope Benedict was pope, he had those who receive Communion from him do it only kneeling and on the tongue.
The Church teaches that each participle, no matter how small, is the whole and entire Person of Jesus. We heard this in the sequence too: ‘When the Sacrament is broken, doubt not but remember, that there is just as much hidden in the fragment as there is in the whole.’ The Council of Trent states, ‘Christ, whole and entire, is contained not only under either species but also in each particle of either species.’
When a person receives Communion in the hand, particles of the Sacred Host are often times on the person’s hand and they do not know it. I can tell you, having handled thousands of hosts, I feel the particles between my fingertips. I see them on the paten. That’s why we absolutely insist that our servers hold the paten level, otherwise you turn the paten and the Particles fall off. What about churches that don’t use patens at Communion? How many times has Jesus been dropped on the floor and did not know it?
What is the safest way to receive Jesus in Holy Communion? What best helps one’s faith and enkindles humility? Ask yourself, do both manners of reception equally foster a proper sense of reverence and piety? Remember, the little gestures of love and piety really do touch Our Lord’s heart.
My dear friends, if we truly love Jesus and wish to abide in Him and Him in us; if we want to receive all the fruits of Holy Communion, then we must
1) be in a state of grace and to always confess any mortal sins on our soul before receiving the Eucharist;
2) and strive to receive with humility, love, piety, and devotion.
You can read another Everything is Grace sermon series here, Everything is Grace: Divine Mercy Guest Post