Holy Communion

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One of the most inspiring books that I have come to rely on for spiritual growth is “The Imitation of Christ,” by Thomas Kempis.  Written in the 1400’s, Fr. Kempis manages to capture the essence and agony of almost every struggle we face, yielding comfort to his readers through many centuries of time.  I often take this little, pocket-sized, book with me to mass and read from it before the service begins, to help prepare my mind and heart for a spiritual communion with God.  Many nights I read from it before going to bed, as it helps me in saying my prayers.  Last night, I was most inspired by a text from Book 4, Chapter 10, which addresses the state of our minds and hearts when approaching the altar to receive  Holy Communion.  Kempis acknowledges that many of us, myself included, have often received Holy Communion without a repentent heart and without the sacrament of reconciliation.  Many times, I find myself making excuses for not going to confession, trying to convince myself that my heart is “pure” and there have been no transgressions in my life that “really” need forgiving.  The truth of the matter is that reconciliation is what unites us with God again, and without that purity of heart, no spiritual “communion” is taking place.  Jesus calls us to (Kempis) "go to the fountain of goodness and all purity — where you can be cured of your passions and vices.  Then you may deserve to be made stronger and more watchful in resisting all the temptations and deceits of Satan.”  Knowing the great benefit and remedy for sin, contained in the Host and Precious Blood, Satan uses every trick and every occasion to discourage faithful souls from using it.  He tries to deceive us, frighten us, and confuse us through his crafty suggestions, to lessen our devotion or destroy our faith.  This has happened to me on more than one occasion; I have found myself feeling that I am not “worthy" of Christ’s sacrifice because I have “failed” to reach out to my friends and strangers who are in need, or that my prayers are not sincere enough or focused properly to be pleasing to God, or that I do not take an active role in the ministries of the parish, or that I’m not “selfless” enough to meet God’s expectations.  Harboring these feelings, I find myself approaching the altar with very little fervor.  

In this text, Thomas Tempis urges us to ignore these distractions, purposly set in our paths to guide us on a journey of spiritual destruction, “Do not give up going to Holy Communion for every little disturbance; but go promptly to confession, and freely forgive others any offenses against you.  If you are the offender, humbly ask pardon, and God will freely forgive you.  In reading this message, I have to ask myself, “How hard can this be?  How difficult is it to restore love, faith, and joy in my heart simply by ‘asking” for this grace.” Although this lesson is nothing new to me, as I’ve heard it, and have tried to comply with it, all of my life.  Sometimes, however we lose sight of what is plainly in front of our eyes and within our grasp.  Since my retirement, I have made “some” effort to attend the daily masses at St. Franics of Assisi, thinking that by doing so my heart will be “where it needs to be” throughout the remains of the day.  It never is — and this is why!  As the text continues, Fr. Kempis makes a very blatent remark, which all of us need to carefully examine our hearts to descern whether it applies to us, or not: “Sad to say, there are people lacking in devotion and self-discipline, who easily find excuses for delaying their confession, and so they put off their Communion too, for fear they will have to keep a greater watch over themselves.”  He goes on to say,  "How happy and how acceptable to God are those persons who live such a life and keep such guard over their consciences that they are prepared to receive Holy Communion every day.”  In the days ahead, I hope to address this matter within my soul and strive each day to be one of these “happy people,” are are pleasing to God and are prepared to meet him at that moment when called home.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. — Oh most humane and adorable Jesus, Your endless grace and mercy flows forth.  Before granting the gift of absolution to earnest repenters of sinful ways, You demanded a sacrificial compensation.  For a wrongful act cannot be rectified until punishment has been accepted.  Yes, for the salvation of my soul, Jesus, you accepted the price of the Cross.  Grant me the grace to remain free of debts, my heart remaining flawless before You, making Your absolution truly worthwhile.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

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.© Mary Darby 2016