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!