Praised be Jesus Christ! Congratulations to our CCD students who recently made their first confessions! Moreover, a wise priest told me having another priest available would allow many parents and grandparents to return to the sacrament, sometimes after many years. Thanks to Father Barry for making this possible! All of this is thanks to God’s grace and the preparation that each person must make so that the seeds sown will bear spiritual fruit that will last. We work hard to help the seed fall on good ground, knowing that there will always be rocks, birds, and thorns to challenge the spiritual growth that we need. In thinking about confession, we naturally remember that it leads us to being ready to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. And that is the right order: a clean soul to receive Christ Our King in Holy Communion. But sadly, we forget this or sometimes just plain reject it, which can lead to a very blasé attitude about Jesus and what an extraordinary gift it is to receive Him at Mass. And once we stop confessing our sins, our soul loses its ability to benefit from the grace of Holy Communion – if we know we’re doing this, that makes it even worse because a sacrilege (i.e. unworthy reception of a sacrament) does real damage to our soul. Now we must always remember Saint Paul’s adage: “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” We can struggle with sin all of our life, but there is always the hope of one day being saved by God’s grace and our cooperation with it. As parishes, we want to always be striving to receive Jesus with greater devotion and gratitude. One thing we’ll be doing at the beginning of Lent is re -introducing the patens. Many of you will remember that a server attended the priest when he distributed Holy Communion. The server held the paten in such a way that if Jesus was dropped, He would land on the paten and be consumed later by the priest. This practice was never officially discontinued, and we’ve now been asked to resurrect this old tradition. It’s a little way of showing Jesus greater honor and we will always promote that. At Saint John’s we’re going to allow people to receive at the Communion rail if they want. Two of the Communion distributors will be available at the Communion rail for those who would like to receive Jesus while kneeling down. One can receive either on the tongue or on the hands – we don’t want there to be any superiority in either direction, something the devil always entices as he loves to divide and conquer (e.g. “I receive Jesus on the tongue, so must be holier than those who don’t” – this is what we want to avoid, in whatever form it may come). We’ll do a demonstration so that people will know how to do this if they’re so inclined. Again, the main preparation for Holy Communion is to make sure we really believe this is Jesus (not a symbol, not a poetic sign, but truly Jesus: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity). Also, we’re to fast for at least one hour (i.e. no food, no liquids other than water) before receiving our Lord. Finally, we should not be conscious of serious sins on our soul. For example, we should not receive Holy Communion if we’re sleeping with someone who is not our spouse or if we missed Sunday Mass without a valid excuse, or if we have abused drugs or alcohol. Also, if we’re in an irregular marriage (e.g. married outside the Catholic Church without permission or in a second marriage without an annulment of the first marriage), then we are to make a spiritual Communion but not actually receive Jesus. People are funny about how they read this list, know that they have some work to do, but promptly dismiss it and go about doing what they feel they have a right to do. Such people cannot become saints in this life because their hearts are not open to receive the graces God wants to give. Only God’s grace can bring about such a conversion – this is why more time in prayer is the best thing we can do, as it wins graces for people to finally see that God’s ways, while mysterious, are best.
May God allow us, like our fearless 2nd graders, to trust Him with our sins!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin