Once again from the archives, and a foll-up to yesterday . . .
I wrote yesterday about the dignity and value that God assigns human sexuality precisely because of its capacity to reveal love as the self-same reality expressed by Jesus Christ on his Cross. The mutual self-giving of a married couple is a sign to the rest for the Church of God’s love for us. The love that is expressed by married people in symbol is the love the each of experiences in reality upon worthily receiving the Eucharist.
The parallels between marriage and the Eucharist are abundant and beautiful. In the marriage bed, the bridegroom offers himself to his bride in complete surrender to her. On the bed of the altar, the sacrifice of Calvary is made present to the Church once again, and Christ, the bridegroom, offers himself to his bride, the Church, in complete surrender. In the context of marriage, the flesh of the groom and the flesh of the bride comingle so as to create a single body. In the Eucharist, the flesh of the Christ enters into the flesh of his bride, the Church, as we literally consume his body and blood Sunday after Sunday. This mutual act of giving creates life for the married couple. In the Eucharist, we, as the bride of Christ, receive new and refreshed divine life within ourselves.
As with love, the consequences of sin are similar in marriage and in our relationship with God. In marriage, to properly love requires fidelity. How can a man, cheating on his wife, offer himself to her completely and with surrender? Each time he offers his body to her, he tells a lie to her. If she is cheating, by receiving him, she tells a lie with her body. Their infidelity is destructive to bride and groom alike, and they fail to serve as the image of Christ’s love to the world. So too in our relationship with Christ – a relationship mirrored by marriage – do we do serious damage when we receive our groom unfaithfully. Every time we receive the Holy Eucharist knowing that we are guilty of mortal sin, we tell a lie. We are saying that we are in communion with out groom, Christ himself, and that we are in communion with the Body of Christ, the Church. The fact is, however, that our sin has of necessity separated us from union with God and His Church. We have been an unfaithful spouse, and we are in desperate need of reconciling ourselves so as to return to communion.
Luckily for us, to be restored to communion with Christ and his Church is much easier than healing a marriage that has experienced infidelity. Christ, who is infinitely forgiving, invites us to that experience of his love, his forgiveness, and restoration through the sacrament of reconciliation. There is a catch, though. We do not get to decide the terms upon which he forgives us. We do not simply get to say that I have asked Jesus for forgiveness in my heart, and he has forgiven me. Christ himself decides the terms of our forgiveness, and he has been very clear about it. If we are to be restored to communion with him and the rest of the Church, we must go to confession when we sin.
Allow me, in this final paragraph, to be very clear about the constant teaching of the Church in this regard. If one willingly and knowingly breaks any of the commandments or defies any clearly defined teaching of the Church, he has committed a mortal sin. He has ruptured his union with God and with the Church. While suffering under the burden of this sin, he is not free to receive Holy Communion, and commits further serious sin if he does so, until making a good confession. Stop cheating on our Groom. Go to confession. Get right with God. Get right with the Church.