Friday, May 29, 2009

Is the Eucharist necessary for salvation?

1) Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!
2)DC ‘Hood at Holy Redeemer, Kensington, tonight, 6 pm. Go ‘Hood!!
In my Easter Sunday homily, I mentioned the role of the Eucharist in the life of a Catholic. I said, “Jesus tells me that I need to receive the Eucharist if I want to get to Heaven”. One blogger said that he/she had never heard this before and another said that he/she was confused on what I meant (i.e., receiving the Eucharist was a requirement for getting to Heaven). Also, Cynthia quoted St. Thomas Aquinas who argued that the Eucharist is not necessary for salvation. It seems as though one comment from a homily has caused some thought, reflection, and research which is a good thing! Please let me clarify my comment.

First of all, please keep in mind that I was speaking to mostly Catholics, some of whom come to Church only on Easter and Christmas. In a nutshell, I was trying to get their attention about the paramount importance that Jesus places on receiving the Eucharist in John 6:53-54: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”. I have found that many Catholics are not familiar with John 6, especially verses 53 and 54. It is my duty as a priest to teach them the doctrines of the Church and the Eucharist is among the most important doctrines. As you have noticed, I use creative ways to teach the doctrines. Maybe I used a little too much creative license to make my point, but the point was heard and has been heard by many Catholics who otherwise would not have heard it.

Secondly, it is a debatable point in the Church – some say that the Eucharist is necessary for salvation and others say not. For example, Fr. John Hardon was a well-known and well-respected Jesuit who taught that the Eucharist is necessary for salvation. He said:

Like Baptism, the Eucharist is necessary for salvation to be received either sacramentally or in desire. Christ's words, "if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life in you" (John 6:53), means that Holy Communion is necessary to sustain the life of grace in a person who has reached the age of reason. Those who, through no fault of their own, do not realize this can receive the necessary grace to remain in God's friendship through other means. This is similar to what happens with the baptism of desire to first receive the state of grace.

Also, there is this from

The doctrine of the Church is that Holy Communion is morally necessary for salvation, that is to say, without the graces of this sacrament it would be very difficult to resist grave temptations and avoid grievous sin. Moreover, there is according to theologians a Divine precept by which all are bound to receive communion at least some times during life. How often this precept urges outside the danger of death it is not easy to say, but many hold that the Church has practically determined the Divine precept by the law of the Fourth Council of Lateran (c.xxi) confirmed by Trent, which obliges the faithful to receive Communion once each year within Paschal Time.

The main reason that I would use to argue that the Eucharist is necessary for salvation is because Grace is necessary for salvation, and in the Eucharist there is Grace. That’s what Jesus is really saying in John 6 – that if we don’t receive the Eucharist, we will not have Grace within us. We first receive Sanctifying Grace at Baptism and it is nourished and nurtured by the Eucharist. The Eucharist builds up Grace (“eternal life”) within us and gives us strength to avoid serious sin, as the above article states. If serious sin is accompanied by the knowledge and consent that make it mortal, then the state of grace is lost and “you have no life within you”. Catholics know they need to be at Mass every Sunday and I don’t want them to fall into mortal sin. So, I emphasize receiving the Eucharist so that Catholics will come to Mass and keep holy the Sabbath each week.

Finally, I hope that all those who enter into this discussion are receiving the Eucharist in the Catholic (or Orthodox) Church. St. Thomas Aquinas might have argued against the necessity of the Eucharist for salvation (and that was probably regarding those who are ignorant about the Eucharist), but he loved the Eucharist dearly and regularly received the Blessed Sacrament. His exquisite and rich writings on the Eucharist are some of the best in the Church and should lead all who read them to not only need the Eucharist but hunger for it. I hope that all those who take his side in this debate follow his example.


At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

St. Thomas's conclusion is that the Eucharist "is not necessary for salvation in the same way as Baptism is" (emphasis added).

This is clearly true, from the Roman Catholic practice of baptizing infants but not allowing children to receive Communion until they're old enough to do so "with faith and devotion."

But that's a different question from whether the Eucharist is "necessary" for adult Catholics to go to Heaven.

What is necessary for anyone's salvation is union with Christ and His Mystical Body. The Eucharist is (among other things) the sign of this union for those who are able to receive.

For an adult Catholic, to never receive the Eucharist is to refuse union with Christ, and no one can go to Heaven who refuses union with Christ.

(That's in addition to the "moral necessity" of receiving the graces of the Eucharist in order to avoid mortal sin.)

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe a weird question- but are thse who receive the Eucharist on a daily basis "more" nourished with grace than thse who only receive on the Sabbath and Holy Days?

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also wonder about those who want to receive the Eucharist but cannot because they are, for example, divorced and remarried and are therefore excluded from that sacrament. By still attending Mass and not receiving, are they still receiving grace dispite their ability to partake? Isn't their presence at Mass and their desire t receive enough?

And what of those who receive regularly but do not believe in the Real Presence? How are they nourished by a grace in which they do not believe?

At 10:18 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

For what it's worth, I don't think asking whether one group of people is better off than another group of people is the right question. I think the right question, for each of us, is, "Am I better off in this group than in that group?"


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