Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

(II Kings 19:9b-11.14-21.31-35a.36; Matthew 7:1-5)

A few years ago a Catholic magazine parodied the Church’s concern that people who are not prepared to receive Holy Communion nevertheless go to take it. The magazine likened giving notice that reception of the Eucharist is intended for faithful Catholics in the state of grace to having a bouncer at the Communion rail. Yet the gospel proscription today of giving “what is holy to dogs” has been interpreted from ancient times as a warning not to admit the un-baptized or the unrepentant to the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic bread and wine are, above all, Christ himself. He comes to bring us peace and to strengthen us against evil. Everyone, of course, needs this assistance. But unless one recognizes him and is not spiritually dead due to mortal sin, accepting him in Communion, like exercising immediately after eating, will not improve but imperil one’s well-being.

Of course, suggesting that people are like dogs sounds rash to our ears. It was an expression of first century Judaism just as twenty-first century Americans innocently call elderly women and men “guys” – a term once reserved for young men. We do well not to judge Jesus by the colloquialisms he uses but to judge ourselves by his standard, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction...”