February 4, 2016

Why Non-Catholics Cannot Receive the Eucharist

The Eucharist
Among the Church’s seven sacraments the Holy Eucharist is preeminent because it is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Real Presence is the source and summit of the faith from which innumerable graces flow. Catholics who receive Communion receive Christ into their bodies to be more fully assimilated into His. In so doing, we assert our fidelity to the teachings of the Church. According to Saint John Paul II, "The Eucharist builds the Church," [Redemptor Hominis 20]. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist signals our unity with the Church, and with Christ Himself.

Moreover, Communion strengthens us. In the Eucharist, Jesus forgives our venial sins and helps us resist mortal sin. To encounter Christ in this way is a supreme miracle and divine gift; the power of which cannot be exaggerated. The Sacrifice of the Mass should evoke in us awe, reverence and profound love.

Numerous times, Jesus proclaims unequivocally the nature and importance of the Eucharist. In the Gospel of John our Lord says:
Amen, amen, I say to you, 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. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink [John 6: 53-55].
Hearing this, many of Jesus’ disciples walked away in disgust. Yet, instead of softening or revising his teaching, Christ reiterates it. The Institution of the Eucharist established by Jesus at the Last Supper has been solemnly and unendingly professed by the Church ever since.

The reason non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist is not a matter of hospitality. It is a matter of unity and belief. First, Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ. Most Protestants contend that the bread and wine remain bread and wine. Therefore, they have no difficulty inviting believers and non believers alike at their respective services to participate in what is little more than a community meal.

Second, is the question of unity. The word Communion means "In union with". Sacred Scripture states that partaking of the Eucharist is among the highest signs of Christian unity: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" [1 Cor. 10:17]. When Catholics receive they are saying "I believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church", as well as, "I believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist." When the priest presents us with the Body of Christ, our "Amen" is an affirmation, not only in the Real Presence, but in the unity of the Church and the truth of the Church’s teachings [absent reservations, variance, or dissent]. Hence, it would be hypocritical for non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

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