There is a silly notion that always crops up whenever a priest of bishop restricts communion from someone who has caused public scandal. Soft hearted and soft headed folks say, “Hang on! Don’t judge! Communion isn’t a reward for the righteous! It is medicine for sinners!”
So, in the recent case of Fr Nolan requesting Judge Smolenski not to present herself for communion, various commentators have wheeled out this comment and others like it: “Who is he to judge? Communion is the merciful Jesus coming to help sinners. It is not a prize for the do gooders!”
How is it possible that any Catholic is so ignorant of the most simple practicalities of the Catholic faith? First of all, no one would disagree that the Eucharist is food for the journey, medicine for sinners and a help to the sin sick and weary, but it can only be that if the person is first penitent and sorry for their sin.
The Eucharist is not magic. It doesn’t “help” people in some quasi hocus pocus magic pill kind of way. It’s not the red pill that opens you to reality.
But the people who are spouting this nonsense don’t believe the Eucharist is magic and they don’t really believe that the Eucharist is “medicine for sinners.” They’re just using pushing that meme to advance their politically correct agenda.
The Eucharist is medicine for the sin sick only because receiving the body, blood soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Mass is an act of faith that follows true, heartfelt repentance and turning away from one’s sin. It is this double action–repentance and faith–which makes the Eucharist a soul saving medicine for the sinner.
It’s real simple. If you are aware of mortal sin in your life you need to go to confession before you receive communion. What has been forgotten is that if you do NOT confess your sin and amend your life and you receive communion anyway you are not taking medicine to help. You’re taking spiritual poison.
Listen to the sobering warning from St Paul
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink damnation on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. (I Cor 11:27-31)
This is why Judge Smolenski was asked not to present herself for communion. It was not some sort of punishment or public rebuke. It was not a political statement or a harsh judgemental attack. It was not an attempt to exclude Sara Smolenski or to exclude sinners from the church so it could be some sort of puritanical sect.
The request was made for the sake of Sara’s soul.
It was an apostolic warning which could be phrased as, “Sara, please do not present yourself for communion because you are in danger of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord, and the Apostle Paul teaches that instead of the Eucharist having a beneficial effect in your life it could cause illness, death and even eternal damnation.”
This kind of thinking is the fruit of a heresy that is eating away at the faith like termites in a wooden church. It’s universalism. Universalism is that sneaky gargoyle which is the unspoken assumption that everybody will be saved, and if they are going to be saved, then in fact, they are already saved and all they have to do is realize that fact and maybe get some help along the way to heaven. Hey! “Communion is food for the journey and medicine for sinners.” fits perfectly with the idea of universalism. “If you’re already saved there is really no need for that uncomfortable and outdated concept of repentance. All you need is a bit more warmth, acceptance and a helping hand.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of warmth, acceptance and a helping hand. The door of the confessional is always open.
There is no other place on earth that is more warm and accepting and helpful than that.