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The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 49)

Fasting at the Feast?
I give thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, Who have been pleased to nourish me, a sinner and your unworthy servant, with the Precious Body and Blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: this through no merits of mine, but due solely to the graciousness of your mercy. And I pray that this Holy Communion may not be for me an offense to be punished, but a saving plea for forgiveness <(St. Thomas Aquinas)./div>
Why would the great saint and doctor of the Church be concerned that the reception of Holy Communion could possibly be “an offense” before God, rather than a “saving plea for forgiveness”? Is not Holy Communion always God's gift of mercy—always the crucified and risen Body and Blood of Christ? Yes, certainly, the Sacrament is always Christ's bodily presence and gift. But in our reception of the gift, there are two possibilities (and only two): saving grace or judgment.
Is it not the case that the gift of love may always be received in one of two ways—either with true awareness, gratitude, and reciprocal love, or with ingratitude and a presumptive lack of appreciation? It is not our faith and gratitude that makes the Sacrament what it is. However, it is only by faith and gratitude that it is received to our eternal good. As St Paul wrote: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.” Therefore a person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27-29).
In concern for the integrity of our faith, the law of the Church teaches us that there are circumstances when it is right to refrain from receiving Christ's sacramental Body and Blood. That is, there are circumstances in which we exercise our faith and show our respect for the Sacrament by fasting rather than feasting. One who has neglected the Mass, or committed grave sins, or grown casual about the faith, presuming upon God's grace—then it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation that calls. It is in the confessional that the Catholic Christian “examines himself” in order to truly “discern the body of Christ” and so to “eat the bread and drink the cup” worthily.

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