Saturday, August 26, 2006

Risky business

"What do you do if you know someone is commiting mortal sins and is still recieving the Eucharist? She will not go to confession." This was the question of an anonymous blogger last week who is obviously and rightly concerned about a loved one. Anon, thanks very much for your concern, and for bringing this question to our forum. Unfortunately, just about each one of us could ask the very question you have asked.

Please keep in mind that we can judge actions, but we can't judge hearts. In other words, you can say that your friend is committing grave sins, but you can't say definitively that she has full knowledge and full consent. She might appear to know what she's doing and freely choosing it when she commits serious offenses against God, but onyl she and God know for sure. So, none of can say that "so-and-so" is in a mortal sin; we can only go by external behavior.

So, if you raise the issue about her receiving Holy Communion in her state, be prepared for her to ask you how you can judge her like that. The way that I do it is to say, "now, I'm not saying and I cannot say that you are in this state, but you know that if we are in a state of mortal sin, we have to go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist, right?" She might say, 'who are you to judge me?'

I would reply, " I'm not judging what's in your heart and mind. But, I have seen you (get drunk, take the Lord's name in vain, skip Mass on Sunday, or whatever)...and those are serious sins. No matter what your sins are, Christ will forgive them in Confession. Please do not risk receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. That act itself is mortal sin; it is serious business!! Do you know what the Bible says about receiving the Body of Christ unworthily?

"Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27) and that he/she "eats and drinks judgment on himself" (v.29). What that means is that your friend would share the responsibility for the death of Christ. As one commentator has explained it, the soul in mortal sin is like a “chamber of death”; if Christ enters this soul, he enters death. It is like bringing about his death."

I would be surprised if your friend persists in her attitude of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist even though she has committed grave sins, and maybe even mortal sins. It's entirely too risky! I hope that she has a change of heart. I encourage you to pray for her, and witness to her about the absolute treasure that the Eucharist is, and how we are to handle it with the greatest care. As I wrote in one of my early August posts, "one of the biggest things that each of us will be judged on is how we respected the Eucharist while here on Earth".


At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not understand why not going to Church on Sundays is a mortal sin. Where has this been written in the Bible? I know people who are very wonderful who do not go to Church on Sunday. No offense Father Greg, but I think the Church is a bit extreme here. I understand the Church would consider this a lack of respect to Jesus Christ or a lack of devotion but a mortal sin? Then I suppose 90% of the world is destined to go to Hell.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Thanks, Anon, for your comment. In one recent post, I laid out the conditions of a mortal sin. The first condition is grave offense; a direct sin against the Ten Commandments. Missing Mass on Sunday is a direct sin against the 3rd Commandment, "Keep holy the Sabbath". If it's done with full knowledge and full consent (the other two conditions), then it is a mortal sin.

As Catholics, we know we have to go to Mass on Sunday. It is the Lord's Day, the Sabbath. The early Christians called Sunday the Christian Sabbath by the first or second century. We honor and worship God the way Jesus showed us: gather around a table as a community, and celebrate the Word and the Eucharist. "Take this all of you and eat this in memory of me".

So, the person who intentionally misses Mass on Sunday is saying 'no' to God in a major way. For 24 hours at least, he/she is putting so many things as more important than God: sleep, shopping, sports, TV, work, whatever. They not only do not keep holy the Sabbath, but they reject Christ's command to receive the Eucharist.

I take Jesus' words in John 6:53 to be addressing the question you are asking. "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you".

Jesus himself was accused of being "extreme". As we will hear in this weekend's Gospel, most of the people who heard his teaching on the Eucharist (John 6 - one of the main bases for the Church's teaching about attending Mass on Sunday) rejected it. They "murmured" and "quarreled" and then "returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him" (Jn 6:66).

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Searching For Holiness said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Searching for Holiness,

What did you mean by "Can doing things that arn't respectful be forgiven?"

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Going to church each week is boring.

At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, doing things that aren't respectful can be forgiven. Everything for which you can ask forgiveness can be forgiven, and everything for which you do ask forgiveness is forgiven.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Pete said...

if you are truly sorry. and church is boring, but not if you try to reflect as thoughtfully as possible about all of the incredible and kind of ridiculous stuff we do and say- which you should do anyway.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

To those who say that Church is boring, I ask, "would you have found the Crucifixion boring?"

It's the same event; Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is represented on the altar. The bread and wine truly become his flesh and blood at every Mass. The same flesh and blood that was on the Cross... for you. (John 6:51, among other things, tells us that.) That is not is awesome!!

Sure, Mass isn't the funnest part of our day, but it is the greatest part!

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something that Father Wells said to our RCIA class several years back that has stuck with me (as have many things Fr. Wells had said)......
"Pray, pray that you come to love the Mass". At times I would do this when I was starting to feel that going to mass was more of a chore than a desire, and Christ answered that prayer by asking me to look deeper into the meaning behind everything that is said or done at Mass. and I am constantly learning. There is such richness and beauty in every word and action that is said or done.
So every now and then when I start to slip back into my just going through the motions of attending sunday Mass, I will remember Fr. Wells words and pray...."pray, pray that you come to love the Mass".
God will always answer and reveal its beauty and power.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Pete said...

Soon after you posted this blog and I read it, I ended up in a conversation with a friend about confession where she said she prefers her own relationship with God, feels forgiven that way, and does not want to involve a priest. I debated with her, showed her this blog, and also stressed its main point "It is just too risky" in my own way: "when playing with eternity, it's better safe than sorry.

She had to concede to that argument, but said she was still confident, and unpersuaded.

Then I had to tend to homework and the like, and after arguing for about a half hour parted in a disagreeing friendship. She's an amazing person and more open to religion than most people I know, although her few preconceptions about life she holds tightly. Nothing you have as yet said or anything I have as yet come up with has swayed her, but I am convinced she is not, as Aristotle would say, a "vicious" person unopen to reason.

I can't really expect advice, but this all happened within a few days of you posting the entry, and it struck me as relevant enough to comment.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Pete said...

oops i meant to post this comment on your more recent entry on confession. but it apllies to both, the other is just the one i showed my friend, actually within 24 hours of its creation.

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit, there was a time when my friends and I thought Mass was boring; especially if there was no homily, or the priest rambled on and on and on - we went because we had to. If our parents dropped us off at Mass (because we couldn't seem to get up in time to go with them!), we had to make sure we brought a copy of the bulletin home to prove we went - back in the day when the bulletin was distributed by the ushers after Mass.

Out from my parent's roof, Mass didn't seem that important. Why ruin a perfectly good day for sleeping (and recovering from a great night of partying) with getting up and doing all that kneeling, standing.......

As I got older, I returned to Mass, and tried to "get into it." I knew I was supposed to be there, but wasn't sure why. After some family members "retired" from the true faith to explore other faiths, I started reading about our faith and what being Catholic means. I finally understood why the bells rang during the elevation - wow. Having reflected on what I learned, spending time before Him in adoration, and participating in Masses celebrated by reverent priests, like Fr. Greg, I now feel like my day is missing something if I don't make it to daily Mass. It's the worst "meal" to skip.

It didn't come easy and it didn't come fast, but thank God it came!


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