By Joel Padgett
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Over the past few months, I have been writing on the individual goals of our Eucharistic Renewal: Believe, Worship, Live and Share. We have already taken a deeper look at fostering belief in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist, as well as at participating in and appreciating more fully the Mass in its entirety. In this article, we’ll reflect upon what it means to live a Eucharistic life, that is, to live in such a way that we reflect the Eucharist in our daily lives.
Christ, in the Eucharist, seeks to transform our lives. He desires that we become that which we receive. As we receive Him, he yearns that our lives reflect Him ever more fully in all that we are and all that we do. In part, this Eucharistic living involves how we prepare ourselves for participating in Mass and in receiving Communion, but it also involves how we go forth from Mass to reflect Christ to the world (we’ll touch more on the goal of sharing in a later article).
One of the greatest means that Christ gives us to aide us along our way just happens to be another sacrament; that of Reconciliation, otherwise known as Penance or Confession. Since we are all in need of God’s grace in order to truly live a Eucharistic life, and since we all fall short many times and in many ways, the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation will always be deeply united. Personally, I think that the fruitfulness of Eucharistic Renewal will be greatly limited unless there is at the same time a renewal of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In order to live a deeper communion with God—one of the fruits of Holy Communion—anything that obstructs, hinders or blocks that communion must first be reconciled so that true communion can actually occur.
Although all analogies have their limitations, I hope that the following may be of some use. Regarding physical health, we need food and medicine; nourishment and healing. Likewise, in our spiritual lives, we need the Eucharist—the Bread of Life—and Reconciliation, which is one of the sacraments of healing. In fact, at times we are so sick that it would only make us sicker if we were to partake of a sumptuous banquet. This is why the Church teaches that if we are aware that we have committed a serious sin, we must first go to confession before receiving Holy Communion at the Eucharistic Banquet, the Mass. Once healed from serious sin, the Eucharist does, in fact, nourish and strengthen us. It is food for our journey.
However, there are other benefits of the sacrament of Reconciliation that are not as often discussed, but that are extremely valuable in aiding us to more fully reflect the Eucharistic Jesus in our lives. These benefits often come through the practice of frequent confession, which more often involves less serious, or venial, sin. Whereas there might be an understandable tendency to view Penance from a negative perspective (since it involves guilt and sinfulness), the benefits help to illumine the immensely positive aspect of Confession. Referring to frequent confession, Pope Pius XII enumerated eight of these: “genuine self-knowledge is increased, Christian humility grows, bad habits are corrected, spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted, the conscience is purified, the will strengthened, a salutary self-control is attained, and grace is increased.”
Taking up our previous image and continuing to recognize the limitations of analogies, one could compare the practice of only going to Reconciliation rarely or for serious sins (Catholics are only required to go to Confession once a year, or if they are aware of having committed a serious sin) to the approach of curative medicine (treating someone after they have already fallen ill). Likewise, frequent confession could be likened to the approach of preventive medicine, thus helping to prevent small things from becoming serious things. Curative medicine will always be necessary; but as preventive healthcare’s importance has grown over time, frequent confession might just be the thing to really help your spiritual health flourish and to more fully come alive in Christ.