‘ For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness’ (Wis.6:10).
In the Lord’s prayer our petition is to give us our daily bread. Bread is important indeed. But can we live by bread alone? My answer is that man does live by bread and bread alone. But it is not the kind of bread for which we yearn every day. It is the supernatural food that our loving Father in his benevolence and providence gives us every day. We just remind him whenever we say the Lord’s prayer, that we be given our daily bread.
The teachings about the true bread that gives life to us was the one grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted. It had to be so, because it was a totally strange thing when somebody exhorted his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood as their spiritual nourishment. Imagine yourselves in the place of those Jews who doubted about how it would be possible for a man to give his flesh as food for others. Their doubts were genuine, because they had never heard of anybody offering their own flesh as food for others, that too while still being alive.
‘The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn. 6:52). Jesus didn’t give a direct answer to their ‘how’ question. Instead he went a step further and declared that unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, we will have no life in us.
Jesus was categorical in his teaching about the Holy Eucharist. ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day, for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink’ (Jn 6:54-55). He draws a distant parallel with manna, the bread their ancestors ate in the desert. It was also bread sent from heaven. But the difference was that those who ate it died in due course. Jesus was saying that the manna was just a shade of the true bread coming to the world. “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:58).
So, it is clear that there are two kinds of bread that men seek. Both are given from heaven. Both are for our nourishment. One is temporal and useful to feed the flesh. Its utility ends where the flesh ends; at the moment of death. The other one is spiritual and it is useful for the nourishment of the soul as well. Its utility transcends the flesh and transcends the moment of death too. It is the flesh of Lord Jesus Christ that is given to us in Holy Eucharist.
When we say the Lord’s prayer, which bread are we beseeching from heaven, the temporal one or the spiritual one?
As far as our temporal necessities are concerned, Jesus was very clear in his teaching. ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Mt 4:4). Read carefully. Jesus never said that we do not need bread. We need it, but it is not sufficient. We need the word that comes from the mouth of God as well.
What is this word coming from the mouth of God? John explains: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being’ (Jn 1:1-3). Then what happened to this Word? ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). If everything was created by the Word and if the same Word became flesh to live among us, it is perfectly logical to conclude that we need this Word Incarnate to enter eternal life.
Are we more concerned about this heavenly bread than what we eat every day to sustain our earthly life? This temporal food is necessary as long as we are in this world. But Jesus has told us not to worry about it. It will come anyway. “And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows you need them. Instead strive for His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well’ (Lk 12:29-31). So, do not worry; our temporal food is guaranteed, provided we strive for the kingdom of God.
Today our topic is the respect this bread of life demands from us. Do we really give the Holy Eucharist the respect it deserves? Think for a moment. We know that the bread and wine becomes the true body and true blood of Jesus Christ through the process of transubstantiation during consecration. Catholic Church teaches that even a minuscule part of the Eucharistic species contains in it the fullness of Jesus. This is the reason the Church teaches us to give utmost respect to the Blessed Sacrament. Before eating the body of Jesus Christ and drinking from the chalice of his blood, we should introspect and make sure that we are worthy to receive them. It is something serious enough for Paul to warn the Cornithians: ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body eat and drink judgements against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died’ (1 Cor. 11:27-30).
Disrespect to the Blessed Sacrament is manifested in receiving it in an unworthy manner. We should introspect and examine our conscience, before approaching this sublime Sacrament. If you find, during the course of this examination, that you have committed any mortal sins, please, please do not receive the body and blood of your Saviour. The Church warns us; ‘Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance (CCC 1415).
Never be fooled by the false teachings that receiving this precious gift irrespective of whether you are in a state of grace or not will help you. By receiving the Eucharist you are showing your love and respect to Jesus Christ. But when you receive it in an unworthy manner, you are showing total disrespect to your Lord who endured his passion for you. Do not forget that the Holy Eucharist is the result of his sufferings for you and me.
Are we aware of the necessity to observe the Eucharistic fast? Earlier, communion fast involved abstention from all food and drink, including water, from midnight prior to the reception of Communion. This stipulation was first diluted in 1905 and then the period of fast was reduced to three hours. It was a time when the Church started exhorting the laity to receive the Blessed Sacrament every day, which made fasting from midnight impractical. Further relaxations followed and the duration of fast was reduced to one hour which is the current norm. We should use this one hour of fast to detach our thoughts from this world in anticipation of the spiritual food that we eagerly await.
How do we receive the Eucharist? Is it on your tongue or in your hand? The time tested method, supported by the teachings of many Church Fathers and theologians, is that the Eucharist should be received on the tongue. Often reference is made to the practice prevalent not so long ago of receiving the communion kneeling as a mark of deep respect for the holiest of mysteries. There is no doubt that receiving the Communion in this way is the best practice. In fact this was the only method permitted in the Church. However, of late there is a tendency on the part of certain priests – their number is not negligible- to insist on giving the Eucharist in hands only, thereby putting the faithful in a dilemma..
We do not intend to pass any judgement about the novel practice of giving Communion in hand, but at the same time consider it our duty to shed light on its consequences. Distancing the faithful from Eucharist and denying the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the respect they deserve were one of the important goals of freemasons. We are living at a time when the masonic influence in the Church is becoming more and more obvious. We should be alarmed to see the disrespect shown to the Blessed Sacrament, especially by our younger generation, for whom Eucharist is like another loaf of bread. Before blaming them, we should understand that they were brought up in an environment where Communion was given in hand. It is pathetic to observe that the vision of the supernatural associated with Holy Eucharist is losing gradually, and one of the reasons, we feel, is the introduction of the practice of giving communion in hand.
Covid- 19 has aggravated the situation. Many priests simply refuse to give communion on the tongue citing safety and hygienic reasons. At places where the priest is ready, it is the parishioners who insist on getting the Communion in hand. In many churches, the place where holy water used to be kept has now turned into a repository of sanitizer bottles. Often we see some priests washing their hands with sanitizer, a major component of which is alcohol, before commencing the Holy Mass. May be for ensuring the safety of the faithful. But what is the purpose of him again soaking his hands in this alcoholic concoction just before distributing the communion?
Let me ask you a straight question. Do you believe that the consecrated host and wine pose a risk of getting contaminated with the ‘dreaded’ Coronavirus? Reframing the question, do you believe that Covid-19, or for that matter any disease, will be spread through the most holy body and blood of the Son of God? If your answer is in the affirmative, please get a mirror, place it in front of your face and confirm what you see there is the image of a Christian. My dear brothers and sisters, take it from me: By receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, no Christian has ever contacted any contagious disease during the past two thousand years. No priest, who has given communion on the tongue has ever in the history of two millennia complained of contacting any infection through this sacred ministry.
Catholic life and faith are essentially ‘Eucharistic’ in nature. We commune in the very Body and Blood of the Risen Lord, the Son of God, the true Physician of our souls and bodies. What we see today is that the secular (or anti-christian) world is using the Covid -19 scare to undermine the faith and traditional liturgical practices of the Church. There is no evidence at all that any kind of disease has ever been transmitted through Eucharistic Communion. If that was the case, there would have been a much higher death-rate among clergy throughout history, who consume the chalice after all the people have had Communion. If that was the case, then there would have been more Christians dying of any pandemic. Empirical evidence does not support this.
We should be more concerned about the virus of impiety and a lack of faith than the Coronavirus. The antidote to this state of mind is not avoiding Communion, but presenting ourselves for frequent Communion.
If a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years had the faith to believe that by touching the fringe of Jesus’ cloth, she will be healed, where is our faith today? This is not simply touching the fringe of a cloth, but eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus, the great healer.
We have seen any number of Catholics who casually show their left hand to receive the Communion, and then place it, again with the same carelessness, in his mouth through a small opening made at the upper side of the mask, as if he is putting a coin in a collection box!
What do we do after receiving the communion? Gulping down it in a moment and returning to our world in the next! Do we give thanks to him for sharing his own body and blood for us so that we may have everlasting life in him? If you feel like leaving the Church as soon as the priest leaves the altar, let me tell you; you should ignore that call. Jesus desires that we should remain with him at least for sometime after receiving the communion. This time is most important and It should be used to thank Jesus and converse with him personally.
Having said this, one thing that disappoints Jesus is somebody coming late for the Mass or some others rushing in the last moment. Has it ever come to your mind that Jesus is eagerly waiting for each one of us personally at the altar? Are we so busy as not to reach the Church a few minutes before the Holy Mass starts? If you practice it, I can assure you, your experience of the great mystery of Eucharist will be different from what you had been having till then. Just try it.
Now I would like to draw your attention to the widespread practice of receiving communion in hand. The Vatican has never permitted communion in hand as a normal practice. It all started in the Catholic communities of countries like Holland, Belgium, France and Germany. After ascertaining the views of bishops all over the world the Congregation for Divine Worship settled the issue through ‘Memoriale Domini’ on May 28, 1969 which concluded: “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful.” The Pope judged that the long-received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the faithful should not be changed and strongly urged bishops, priests and the laity to zealously observe this law out of concern for the common good of the Church”.
This was Catholic Church’s official position. Then how did the practice of Communion in hand become almost a norm?
Let us go back to 1969 when Pope Paul VI, in an effort to strike a compromise between the traditionalists who supported the existing practice of receiving communion on the tongue and the liberals who wanted it in hands, issued an indult – an exception to the law – permitting Communion in hands under certain conditions.First and most important condition was that this indult could not be given to a country in which Communion in the hand was not an already established practice; second, the bishops in countries where it was established must approve of the practice “by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority.” Apart from this, the Vatican insisted that another seven conditions be complied for availing this exception of Communion in hand. These conditions include respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice (of receiving kneeling and on the tongue), maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist, and strengthening the laity’s faith in the real presence.
I hope it is pretty clear now. Communion on the tongue is the only permitted mode of distributing the Eucharist. Communion in hand was permitted as an exception under strict conditions, that too as a compromise to accommodate those who demanded it. A bishop or priest can refuse communion in hand. But they can never, never refuse giving Communion on the tongue. If you live in a country where the practice of giving Communion in hand was not prevalent as an established practice before 1969, then know that the Vatican has not allowed them to start giving Communion in hand taking advantage of the indult.
When I write these lines, I can see the faces of millions of Catholics who are denied their basic right of receiving Communion on the tongue. What we can do is to request our pastors and bishops to be kind enough to give Communion on the tongue and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide them in the correct way.
Whether they agree to our request for Communion on the tongue or not, our duty towards Holy Eucharist does not change. Holy Eucharist is to be given all the honor it deserves. Think for a moment. If Jesus drops into your house in person, how would you receive him? Would you not go the extra mile to make him feel welcome? Then why not give the same respect to the Holy Eucharist, the true body of Jesus Christ.
In the intervening night of Passover and his crucifixion, Jesus was with his disciples in Gethsemane. After dropping Peter, James and John at a distance, Jesus went ahead praying. When he returned, the disciples were sleeping. The question Jesus asked Peter is directed at us also: ” So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Mt 26:40). Each one of us has to give an answer. Can we stay awake with Jesus one hour? If you are ready, this is the right time. We invite all our readers to spend as much time as possible with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration in reparation for the offences committed against the Blessed Sacrament. ‘ For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness’ (Wis.6:10). Let us vow to approach the Holy Eucharist in holiness.
Let us pray: Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, solitary, abandoned, humiliated, cursed, despised, outraged and ignored by men, have mercy on us.