I’m so glad you’ve stuck with me this far for the Mass. As you’ve seen, in some ways it’s like your Protestant worship service, because Protestants, when they separated themselves from Catholicism, took certain elements of the Mass with them. We share the music, the Scripture reading, and the preaching. At some of your worship services you also offer Holy Communion. That is where we part ways. Holy Communion, or the Eucharist as we call it, is not an addendum to an otherwise complete Sunday morning service. Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is the entire point of the Mass.
We come to Mass to hear about Him, to pray to Him, to worship Him and then to receive Him, to have “communion,” meaning “union with.” It is from this word that we get the oft bandied-about noun “excommunication,” meaning to exclude someone from the sacraments and thus from union with Christ in the Eucharist. Given your Evangelical views on worship, that probably doesn’t impress you too terribly much. After all, how could any church cut someone off from Jesus? Obviously, until we understand Who is really present in the Eucharist, we cannot understand the gravity of the sentence of excommunication.
It is clear that many Catholics do not really understand, deep down in their bones, what we are calling for when we demand that someone be excommunicated. It has Biblical roots, of course; St. Paul writes to the Corinthians that they must “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Pretty serious stuff, handing someone over to Satan. Yet excommunication is at its heart a radical act of charity – a refusal to pretend that someone is what he actually is not. It is the ultimate expression of truth in love.
It is also the very last step to be taken, for the Church is literally cutting a person off from the grace received by partaking of Christ’s Body and Blood, handing her over to Satan – so that she may recognize the real horror of her situation and repent in this life while repentance is still an option.
When Catholics call for the excommunication of their more outrageous coreligionists, they feel that they are doing it for the good of the body of Christ. How many have been deceived into sin by following the teaching of Catholic politicians who have set themselves up as quasi-bishops and hold forth on doctrines which they themselves have never understood, the Joe Bidens and Nancy Pelosis of the world? The Vice-President uttered these regrettable words during the vice-presidential debate:
Biden: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life…. With regard to abortion, I accept my Church’s position on abortion as what we call a de fide doctrine—life begins at conception. That’s the Church’s judgment. I accept that in my personal life… I refuse to impose that on others… I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people, women, that they can’t control their body.”
(In other words: I know it’s wrong, but go ahead, ladies – what the heck! Endanger your immortal souls!)
Minority Leader Pelosi has even less excuse to spout such evil ; she met with Pope Benedict in 2009, and according to the Vatican:
“His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death,” the Holy See said in a statement.
Benedict emphasized that “all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society” should work to create “a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”
Taken as spiritual directors by the unwitting, these prominent Catholics certainly have the ability to lead many astray. A Catholic who belongs to the “diocese” of Bishop Pelosi will react very differently from a Catholic belonging to the diocese of Bishop Jenky of Peoria, for example, when she hears that her law-school-bound son has impregnated his girlfriend. A Catholic who belongs to the “diocese” of Bishop Biden will react very differently from a Catholic belonging to the diocese of Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix when he learns that his daughter has missed her period.
And thus our Catholic response to the misguided preaching of the Bidens and Pelosis among us is one of justifiable outrage. The harm that they are perpetrating is unconscionable and cannot be borne. But we who believe we stand must take care that we do not fall when our outrage approaches bloodthirst. We fall when we respond to evil with evil: “Wipe them out –
all of them!” It’s for the good of the Empire!
If, as Evangelical-turned-Catholic David Currie has written, the Eucharist is the battle-cry of the Lamb, then those rendered deaf to this cry by virtue of their excommunication are left wandering on the field. Excommunication is, in a certain sense, the last hope of the obstinate sinner, a wake-up call of towering proportions. But, as the old hymn warns us: “Good Christians – FEAR! For sinners here, the silent Word is pleading… This, this is Christ the King Whom shepherds guard and angels sing. Haste! Haste to bring Him laud!” As a child, I couldn’t understand this use of the word “fear.” What’s to fear?? It’s Baby Jesus, meek and lowly, lying in a manger! Yes, it is – and they are our Catholic siblings for whom the silent Word is pleading, and they are deaf to His pleas. Haste! Bring Him laud! – praise, adoration, worship – recognize Him for Who He truly is! If I don’t, how can they?? If I name myself with the name of “good Christian,” then my reaction to their indifference to the teaching of the Christ’s Church MUST be one of dread. The Old Testament reading from last Sunday articulated this in a frightening way:
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;
some shall live forever,
others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.
I cannot, I must not be merely defiant of their defiance – for I as a “faithful” Catholic know two things: that this is Christ the King they are defying, the One Who will destroy evil by the splendor of His coming, and that they are members of His body, and therefore my brothers and sisters in Christ. If my reaction is anything other than one of horror at the thought of the loss of their eternal souls, then I unwittingly have thrown my support into the camp of the Defiant, for I too am ignoring the clear teaching of the Church:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. Jn 13:34
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Rom 12:10
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart…. 1 Pet 1:22
We for whom the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King is an occasion of overwhelming joy must be doers of the Word. We who recognize the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as we kneel in awe before the Body and Blood must weep and mourn, fast and pray for those who do not. For He is the One Who told us that He does not desire the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live. On our knees before His Real Presence we must fervently petition Heaven for the salvation of those who obstinately defy Church teaching, and who teach others to do the same, because if it is really Him before Whom we kneel – no other response is conceivable.
It’s really Him.
And when the world sees the Church weeping and mourning as it contemplates the excommunication of the Bidens and Pelosis among us, the world will begin to believe that, too.
On the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Deo omnis gloria!