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Who Gets It?

by the Rev. Buddy Stallings

 

Communion means the world to me. Getting to be a part of it as presider, assistant, or person in the pew is a practice, the absence of which would break my heart and erode my soul. That is true despite the fact that neither my devotion to it nor my deep need of it makes a whole lot of sense to me. The words we pray in and around the Eucharist are filled with allusions of substitutionary atonement, claims which leave me perplexed at best. Salvation for me is that Jesus lived for us, that he came to show us how to live and love, indeed, to be fully human as God’s creation of us intends us to be. His death was less an action to save us than the inevitable end of a life so devoted to love and justice in a broken world. And, yet, remembering that act of pure love, i.e., Jesus’ unwillingness to live in a way contrary to his essence even if it meant his death, and not only remembering it in a commemorative way but experiencing it in the bread and wine as though it was, and, indeed, is, occurring at this moment, is the principal act and hope of Christian worship. Theologians call that kind of remembering anamnesis: the action of the past is the reality of the present.

 

Nothing about our piousness, our impressive knowledge of Eucharistic theology, our devotion to all things church, or our belief about this or that makes us worthy to receive this unending offering of God’s love. Worthiness has nothing to do with it. It is God’s eternal offering of grace and inclusion, less for the proudly converted than it is for us to be converted, time and time again. Coming so close to such grace as this opens our hearts, even as it breaks them, and invites us to become the new creation over and over. That’s why we do it week after week, year after year. We receive not because we are holy but in hopes of becoming holy.

 

One of the saddest episodes in the debacle, which is our current political climate, is the desire of some American Catholic bishops (against the counsel of the Pope) to deny President Biden to receive Communion because of his position on women’s reproductive rights. No matter what side of that issue we embrace, using it, or any other position or action, as a barrier to a table of grace so real and present as to leave none who comes to it unchanged, is an abomination. No one—no bishop, no priest, no principality—owns the grace and mercy of God; and to believe for one moment that it can be meted out to only those worthy of receiving it, I believe, breaks the heart of God.

 

With any luck, my getting on this high horse of righteous indignation will lead me to look inside as much as I dare to see the ways that I, or more likely the strong views I hold, may keep others out. None of us is immune to such practice, to exclusion, to treating even our faith community as some kind of club with all sorts of insider language and admission procedures. We are the recipients of God’s love, not its protectors.

 

We are called to share it, to give it as freely as it has been given to us, even when, especially when, it is hardest to do.


56 thoughts on “Who Gets It?”

    1. Thanks, Ardelle. And (I think) you have just had a birthday—or was it an anniversary? Whatever it was, all the best for it!!

  1. Thank you Buddy. In my opinion, this needs to be said again and again. And we need to be reminded how we are excluding people as well.

  2. This is one of the best explanations of Eucharistic theology I have ever read. As I see it we are “worthy” precisely to the degree that we recognize we are unworthy–as in the Prayer of Humble Access. If we were “worthy” in the ordinary sense of the word, we would not need grace or this sacrament that brings it to us.

  3. Outstanding. Thank you for putting into words that which I fervently believe but have had difficulty expressing.

  4. My daily quest is to be connected to the grace and mercy that I receive from God, and not the self righteous indignation that comes so easy for me. Splendid writing, Buddy. :):):)

  5. “All baptized Christians are invited to the table” means ALL, not just ones that check off boxes on a questionnaire before taking communion. Right?

    1. Gary, I answered you in Suzanne’s response. The three of us seem to be in the same page! That’s good company to me!

  6. There is so much freedom in practicing this radical inclusion you write about. Thanks for caring enough to share this with us.

  7. Oh, Buddy, thank you for this. Like Nancy just said, I’m going to save it and read it again, probably many times. I must say that I agree with every word out of your eloquent high horse’s mouth. Thanks for telling it like it is. We love and miss you!

    1. Mary Jane, your post got posted twice, and I loved it each time!! Hope all is well. Best blessings always.

  8. Oh, Buddy, thank you for this. Like Nancy just said, I’m going to save it and read it again, probably many times. I must say that I agree with every word out of your eloquent high horse’s mouth. Thanks for telling it like it is. We love and miss you!

  9. I often feel like you are saying what’s on my mind or in my heart, yet in the language I am at a loss to use. Love you!

  10. Every time we talk or I get to read your pieces you expand my vocabulary and appreciation of the good word. Thank you for your insight. We are learning about all kinds of new things from our present location, Pooler, GA. Glad to know where you are stabled. Jay and Sandra

    1. Jay, I didn’t realize you all had also decamped! My very best to both of you and hope all goes well! Thanks for writing.

  11. This is a wonderful post. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom. The actions of the American bishops was astounding and terribly sad, although not all supported it. I converted to Catholicism after marrying a Catholic in 1985 and was confirmed at St. Peter. I loved the beauty of the Catholic mass and cannot imagine being turned away over a political position. At least I know that would never happen at Calvary.

  12. Beau, I am not sure of many things, but I am sure of this: that will never happen at Calvary. We are all in this together. Thanks much for writing. God bless.

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