May 23, 2022

Communing With the Divine: Who Has the Right to Decide Who is Worthy to Receive Communion?


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A come clean: I am not Catholic. I was raised Jewish.

I used to go to the synagogue weekly with my family, attended Hebrew school, and became a Bat Mitzvah at the age of 13, and now at 63, I still practice the rituals of my religion.

I attended church with various Christian friends throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I entered my first mosque when I was studying to become an ordained Interfaith Minister via The New Seminary in New York City. I’ve been to Buddhist temples. I have sat in silence at Quaker meetings. I have respectfully engaged in various rituals, experiencing cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation.

I graduated in 1999, and as a minister, I have spoken at various denominational services of all stripes. When I have attended services in Catholic churches, I didn’t receive communion. My son and daughter-in-law got married in her Catholic church. My grandson was baptised in the church as well. Both times, I sat in my seat when the observant Catholics were invited up. I have had my own relationship with Jesus, seeing him as a Rabbi, prophet, and healer. We have a familiar relationship and casual conversation.

When I told my mother that I was going to be attending seminary, she said, “I have one question. Are you converting?” I assured her that I wasn’t, but that I was expanding my spiritual exploration. She was relieved that I wasn’t abandoning what she and my father taught me. They flew up from Florida to attend my ordination in NYC. She teasingly called me her “reverend daughter.” I became our family’s clergy, officiating at weddings and funerals. One of the tenets to which I hold true is that Christianity was not the religion of Jesus, but the religion about Jesus. His religion (and mine) is love.

Many years ago, I was invited to speak at a church where communion was offered to “believers.” I don’t recall the denomination. I was a volunteer organ donor educator for the Gift of Life Donor Program, and was there encouraging organ donation. They asked me to be there since someone from their congregation was either an organ donor or recipient. Since I am an ordained interfaith minister, the title “Reverend” was used when I was introduced. After I spoke, the congregation was called up to receive communion. I had a gulp-what-do-I-do? moment. If I did go up with the rest of the folks, was I breaking a sacrosanct rule? If I didn’t, would I be approached afterward and asked if I had accepted Jesus as my lord and savior? That was a conversation I was not willing to have. So, I had a God-versation and told the Divine that I was going to accept their gift and asked for it to mean whatever S/He would have it mean for me. I did, and guess what? Lightning did not come crashing down and the floor didn’t swallow me up, and no one said a word about it afterward.

I firmly believe that each of us, regardless of faith tradition, has a direct line to the Divine. As clergy, I don’t have the right to tell anyone what to believe spiritually. It is the direct connection between our hearts and the God of our understanding.

Now, a ruckus is being made by the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cardileone, who has declared that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who considers herself a devout Catholic, may not receive communion because she supports the right to abortion. Pope Francis clearly had a different take on it.

Forgive this nice Jewish girl if she somehow missed something, but doesn’t the Pope’s opinion supersede that of an Archbishop? While I would assume that His Holiness does not approve of abortion, he had this to say about refusing Speaker Pelosi the Eucharist:

“What should a shepherd do? Be a shepherd and not going around condemning or not condemning. They must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness.” He further strengthens the argument, “Communion is not a prize for the perfect” but was “a gift, the presence of Jesus in his church and in the community. That is the theology.”

I mean no disrespect to anyone for whom Catholicism is their heartfelt religion, but it seems to me that if this Archbishop had a bone to pick, it should be with those who hate and cause violence in the name of one who came to teach peace. He would have a hard time with abusive clergy who defy their call to heal and not harm. He would have a hard time with those who thump a bible and cradle a gun as they go out marauding. He would have a hard time with those who decide who is worthy of God’s love, himself included.

A portion of one of my favorite songs speaks to this perfectly:

“The Great Spirit looks down upon the blue sphere
As many invoke its holiest names
to spread intolerance hatred and fear
And to those people the Spirit exclaims
You know that I have been patient with you
but I see your hearts and the damage you’d do

Not with my children… Please don’t!
I gave you each other to care for and love
But this world ignores God’s plea from above
Perhaps if we speak out it won’t … Say
Not with God’s children you don’t!”

~ Not With My Jesus by John Flynn

© 2003 Flying Stone Music




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