Dr. Scott Hahn recently posted an excellent Facebook response to a question about the Eucharist being closed to non-Catholics. His answer reflected on his own spiritual journey from Evangelical Christian to Presbyterian minister to Catholic. Each step in his journey brought him closer to understanding the sacramental aspect of both marriage and the Eucharist. Each relationship is a “one flesh” union requiring fidelity and integrity.
As I reflected on Dr. Hahn’s answer, it occurred to me that perhaps a lack of understanding about the Eucharist and marriage contributes to the wide acceptance of contraception. For example, if marriage is not viewed as a sacrament, it becomes only a symbol and loses integrity. It can be manipulated according to the will of anyone desiring to make use of its symbolism. If Holy Communion is only a symbol, it loses any need for fidelity. Anyone can “join in.” There is no need for full union between participants. The Eucharist becomes merely a symbol of common feelings rather than a reality of a “one flesh” union. Since everyone “feels good” about Jesus, they should all be allowed to partake of the Eucharist, right?
Ironically, few married people would be comfortable becoming one flesh with someone they were not fully united to in marriage. That’s called infidelity and it is rightfully frowned upon by most married people. We don’t let everyone “join in.” So, why should we be ok letting people “join in” the one flesh union of the Eucharist if those people are not fully united with Christ’s Church?
And why should we let people partake of the Eucharist if they don’t even believe that what they are participating in is an actual, “one flesh” union? That’s like being in a contraception marriage. There are lots of “good feelings” that feel like bonding, but there is not a one flesh union taking place in the marriage. It is a lack of integrity. The marriage is only symbolic of the feelings they have about each other. They do not take the marriage to its full realization of a one flesh, life giving union.
One of the best ways for the devil to mess up our relationship with Christ is to promote the following errors:
– The Holy Communion is only symbolic. The bread and wine are not transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. We don’t need to become one flesh with Christ at Communion. All we need is our good feelings about Jesus and the Bible.
– Contraception is fine and even preferable. Sex and marriage are mostly about bonding and “good feelings,” not primarily about becoming one flesh and creating new life.
– Anyone that believes in Jesus should be allowed to participate in Holy Communion. No fidelity to the Church or her Christ-given authority is necessary.
The two Sacraments of Eucharist and Marriage are intimately connected in such a way that an attack on one serves as an attack on the other. A deeper understanding of one leads to a deeper understanding of the other. “Becoming one flesh” is a critical theme that connects the two Sacraments in a unique way.
Catholics are not mean, snobbish “elitists” that refuse to let other Christians “join in.” We simply hold to the understanding of Jesus and the Church Fathers who saw the need for covenantal integrity and marital fidelity within marriage and within the Church.