FATHER SAM’S MESSAGE
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we continue our reflection on the gift of mercy in the Eucharist, we read this Gospel account of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. The people are amazed at His words, but very quickly change their minds and drive Him out of their town. For our purposes, let us reflect on our attitude toward Jesus in the Eucharist and how it parallels the people in the Gospel.
When we were taught to receive Holy Communion, do you remember a sense of awe? When you first realized that Jesus comes to us in such a profound way, were you not amazed? But in the spiritual life, it is easy for things to become routine, and even to treat sacred things with disrespect (usually, unintentionally!). If we are amazed by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, then let us show it in the way we receive.
N.B. - none of what follows is meant as a personal attack on anyone, but rather as a pastoral reminder and help.
There are two ways to receive Holy Communion. The universal norm in the Catholic Church is to receive Communion on the tongue. The second option, granted by special permission in 1969 and extended to the United States in 1977, is to receive on the hand. Would you like to know my personal preference? I prefer when people receive Holy Communion on the tongue. But that’s my preference. Far more important than what I like is the solemn reverence that is required when receiving Communion, no matter how one receives.
When the priest or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion says, “The Body of Christ,” the recipient responds “Amen.” This is the only response. Please do not say “Thank you,” “Nice homily,” “You betcha,” or any other phrase. Only, “Amen.” If receiving on the tongue, stand close enough to the priest/minister so that they don’t have to reach, and open your mouth. You can stick your tongue out a little bit, but the whole tongue does not need to exit the mouth, a la Gene Simmons of the band KISS. If receiving on the hand, hold your hands out and high enough that they create a sort of throne. The hand you write with should be beneath the other hand. With the bottom hand, take the host and immediately place it in your mouth. Please do not put two hands out side-by-side, as it is impossible to know which hand you want to receive in. Please do not flip the Eucharist from one hand to another. Please do not receive on the hand if your hands are covered by gloves or sleeves. Please do not receive with just one hand (remember what your mother would say when you carried something delicate - “Two hands!” - this is the Body of Jesus you hold in your hands! TWO HANDS!). Please do not grab the Eucharist from the priest/minister. Please do not hold your hands so low that they can’t be seen. If your hands are occupied (by car keys, purses, canes, small children, crutches, casts, or something else), please receive on the tongue and prevent accidental dropping of Jesus.
Did you notice the small number of caveats attached to receiving on the tongue? It’s simple and easy, and most of all, it is reverent. There are numerous caveats attached to receiving on the hand because, it can be less predictable, and at times, less reverent. Our attitude toward the Eucharist can be like the people in the Gospel: easy to start out reverent, but just as easy to forget the reverence we once had and start to treat the Eucharist like nothing, instead of what it truly is - the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, one of the greatest signs of God’s infinite mercy toward us, the most precious gift we can be given in this life! However we receive, let us receive well and reverently!