We return to meditating this week on preparation for Holy Mass. We have discussed the importance of silence to prepare us to receive God’s holy words as well as to allow the divinely inspired prayers of the Church to God in the Holy Mass to resound inside of us. We must have a time of silence to prepare ourselves individually and bring us together in prayer so as to allow a ‘spiritual space’ to open up to receive the Eternal Word, Jesus, most fruitfully as a parish. This silent connection with God brings us together when we are baptized, in a State of Grace, and making acts of the supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Such silence allows God’s very Word to live in us more fully!
But as we know, there is more than silence and hearing that is required to not only hear, but to understand and allow the words of someone else to come in and change us. If I am in earshot of someone, then I can hear his or her words. Then, if my attention is on their words, I can discern the words being spoken. Silence and attentiveness have gotten us this far, and now it is possible for me to apply my mind as best I can to understand.
However, though I have listened in silence and attentiveness, I may still not understand the words (this happened to me quite a few times when studying philosophy!), so the words cannot enter my heart and change me. Or, even if I do understand, I might not accept them. After all, they may be against what I know I hold as true. Or, even deeper there may be a part of me that secretly knows that in order to receive these words into my heart I would have to change my life, my thinking and acting - and I don’t want to change.
“To have ears to hear,” says Fr Guardini, “requires grace, for God’s word can only be heard by him whose ears God has opened. He does this when He pleases, and the prayer for truth is directed at that divine pleasure.”
Let us then ask for this grace! Let us take the time: 5 to 15 minutes before Holy Mass to ask God to give us the grace to have ears to hear and receive his holy word in our hearts so we may be changed. Let us do this in silence and stillness, so that this prayer may be abundantly answered!
God bless you!
PS After the last few weeks of bulletins, someone asked me to answer the question: “how can I know I am in a State of Sin or a State of Grace? For a good answer to that now, see this webpage: www.saintaquinas.com/mortal_sin.html
I wrote last week about Bishop Daly’s letter citing Canon Law that any Catholic who persists in grave sin or supporting it cannot receive Holy Communion. Why is that? Is it just a rule imposed by powerful grumpy old men because they are conservative misogynistic homophobes? After all, Jesus was loving and inclusive of everyone, aren’t the bishops not being Christ-like?
Not at all. Rather, the bishops, guided by the Holy Spirit, are continuing Jesus’ own ministry. Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell people hard truths for their salvation (e.g., see his strong language in Matt 10:26-40). This ministry of warning people about going the wrong way and sometimes even cutting people off from communion has been from the beginning a part of continuing Jesus’ call to accept God’s salvation (see St Paul’s own practice of it in 1 Cor 5). All of this is to prevent people from rejecting God’s way so that they avoid ultimate exclusion forever in Hell (Luke 13:24-28).
To understand what this exclusion is, it is very useful to talk about being in a “State of Grace” or a “State of Sin.” When we are baptized, we are cleansed of all sin and made temples of the Holy Spirit; God’s very Life, which we call Sanctifying Grace, lives inside of us! When God’s life, Sanctifying Grace, lives in us, we call this being in a “State of Grace” because we continue through our life with God’s life inside, prompting and strengthening us to do good and avoid evil. Because Heaven is the perfect sharing of God’s life, we must be in a state of grace to live in Heaven. However, while in this life, we still have free choice while experiencing the effects sin (of both Original Sin and our personal sins), so we still commit sin. If we commit a venial sin (‘venial’ means ‘slight’ or ‘small degree’), then God’s life is weakened but not lost. However, if we commit a mortal sin, then, as the name suggests, it is a spiritually mortal wound - it kills God’s Life in us, we are separated from Sanctifying Grace, and we cannot go to Heaven in that state.
So, being in a state of sin means that we are dead spiritually, disconnected from God (see John 15:4-6). For this reason, to receive Holy Communion when in a state of sin is to lie directly to God and to the Church. In receiving the Lord in the Holy Eucharist we proclaim not only by our words, but by taking Him intimately into our very bodies, that we are one in Christ and His Body, the Church. If we do this when in reality we have separated ourselves from Him and His Body by a mortal sin, we commit sacrilege of the Most Holy Sacrament - that is, we disrespect Jesus to His face.
In all of this, it is most important to remember that Jesus suffered and died so that no sin could ever separate us from God if we repent. There is always the opportunity to repent and be reconciled to God and the Church through the Sacrament of Confession. If we are in a state of mortal sin, we must do so as soon as possible or risk losing Heaven forever.
May God bless and bring all people to salvation!