That Awkward Moment When… You Don’t Receive Communion

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the brave soul who asked this question:

Recently, I’ve been struggling with certain sins and have had to
refrain from receiving communion. I’ll go to Confession almost every
week or every other week, and then mess up again and not be able to
receive communion.

I have a really hard time going to daily Mass every week, sometimes
not because I can’t receive, but I’m worried my peers and friends will
continue to notice how much a sinner I am.

So, I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit for the past few weeks.
What will get me to daily Mass? Is it worth looking like, as St. Paul
would describe, the worst of all sinners? I’ve thought of some good
reasons to go, but I really want to see what you can come up with.

So, for a future post, will you please try to answer what to do in
this situation?

Truth be told, it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized what a big deal it was to receive communion in the state of mortal sin.  I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t exhaust the subject here, but the fact of the matter was that I just had heard some really bad advice on the matter.  And as you may have noticed in your time thus far on earth, we humans are pretty good at justifying bad decisions when we’re desperate.

“God loves me too much to put me through such humiliation as not receiving communion in front of family and friends while at mass.  He knows how much I love Him…I think it’s fine to receive…”

“Look, God, I promise you I’ll go to confession at my earliest convenience; but today, I’m going to receive you because I’m too embarrassed not to.”

Unfortunately I had it in my mind that these thoughts were justified because of silly little things I read on the Internet (Google is the best friend of a guilty conscience looking for justification).  Turns out that in cases where both reception of communion is necessary and sacramental confession is impossible beforehand, it is ok to receive communion in the state of mortal sin so long as you make a perfect act of contrition beforehand and have a firm intention to go to confession as soon as you are able.  But let’s face it: for a lay person living in the Church today—when most of us have the ability to go to daily mass and can receive the sacrament of penance at least weekly if not whenever we bump into (or call up) our parish priest— it’s extremely rare if not virtually nonexistent that both of the circumstances (1. receiving communion as necessary and 2. confession impossible) are met.

Now that that excuse is out of the way, I’ll do my best to answer the question.

Honestly, yes.  It sucks not being able to receive.  To some extent that’s kind of the point: we’re not supposed to be showing off that we’re not receiving, or proud of our depraved moral state when we can’t receive communion.  We’re supposed to humble ourselves before God, seek forgiveness, and then— still recognizing that we’re not worthy— go to receive Him in all humility while realizing that it’s precisely when we rely on our own “willpower” and “strength” that we end up waiting in our seats while the rest of the congregation goes up to receive Our Lord.  We’re powerless against sin on our own.

But as someone who used to sit wondering if I should or shouldn’t receive (and I only say “used to” because I’ve since quit making up excuses for myself, and it’s now pretty black and white when I should and shouldn’t receive), I will tell you one thing: The only thing that has ever crossed my mind with regard to those who I’ve noticed not receiving communion at mass was how brave they are and what respect for Christ present in the Eucharist they have.

I’ll also say that if it weren’t for the witness of the young adults at my college who, despite their sins, still had a greater reverence and respect for the Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord than I did when they refrained from receiving without a second thought, I don’t know that I would have ever gotten up the courage to humble myself as they were able to.  Yes, even in the state of sin, God can use us to bring others closer to Him.

Satan would absolutely love for us to skip daily mass because we “can’t receive Jesus anyway.”  It’s a great temptation, and even though it’s not a sin to miss daily mass, it’s never a good idea to give into Satan’s bidding.  Trust me, God wants us at mass even when we’re in the state of sin—probably even moreso.

Besides, even though receiving Communion is the greatest thing we can do, it doesn’t mean that going to mass is pointless if you can’t receive.  We’re still there to give God our worship.  We’re still there to offer God our prayers, yearnings, and even our shortcomings.  How can we expect to heal if we don’t spend time with the Physician?

When you can’t receive—either because of being in the state of mortal sin or simply because you can’t make it to daily mass—pray this spiritual communion.  And remember: God still loves us, even in our sins.

I wish, Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervour of the saints.  Amen.

And don’t hesitate to call up a priest to schedule a confession mid-week or whenever.  Jesus gave them the power to forgive our sins…It’s what they’re there for!