(This article was originally published in Indian Thoughts. Here, Dr Snehanandaji discusses in detail, the meaning and relevance of the Holy Mass or Eucharist - Administrator)
This article is mainly for Catholic Christians who form the biggest denomination (about 125 million) in the Christian religion. Everyone can benefit, though, as I have no agenda other than the unadulterated teaching of Christ. This article is in the context of controversial discussions about divorced and re-married Catholics receiving Holy Communion at the Eucharistic celebration that is the most important worship in the Catholic Church. Eucharist or Holy Mass is the memorial of the Lord's last supper where Christ in a dramatic gesture shared with his disciples his body and blood in the form of bread and wine just before betrayal by one of his own disciples, passion, death by crucifixion, and resurrection.
The discussions related to divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexual Catholics in connection with family life and Christian living in today's world are taking place in an important synod (assembly) of bishops and non-Catholic Christian observers in Rome with a view to reformation. These discussions are highly important as the synod tries to discern the will of Christ in dealing with all of humanity, especially the members of the church living in changed circumstances or with different sexual orientations.
Christ as a universal teacher came for all, and his teachings apply to all. His program was to preach the Kingdom of God, and liberate all, especially the oppressed, from the clutches of all that was ungodly, unloving, hypocrisy. He lived an extremely simple life, and taught through example and parables - short stories of principles with a moral attitude - with compassion as well as authority. His parables, to mention a few, - of the Good Samaritan depicting our obligation to love unconditionally every human in the world, of the Prodigal Son demonstrating the unconditional love and forgiveness of the father (God) toward his wayward son, of the Lost Sheep wherein the shepherd (standing for Christ or the pope or a bishop or, finally, you or I) leaving the ninety-nine sheep to look for that one stray or lost sheep - are unparalleled in the whole of human history. So what further enlightenment are we waiting for?! Is not Christ's teaching plain and simple?!
The test of the time is very near. Ultimately everything boils down to our readiness to be rejected, nay crucified, by the unpopular decisions that we make and that will not be accepted by our so-called constituencies that comprise our own very near and dear ones ( the world). Ultimately it is a war between the flesh and the spirit, the demands of the world and the demands of the Kingdom of God. Were we not taught by the master that a disciple is not going to be treated any better than the master?!
So where are we? For goodness sake, let us give communion to all who follow the teaching of Christ, and who in their well-formed conscience come with good intention to receive it. Who has put us in the place of God to judge the intentions of persons? If Christ could give communion to Judas, who would betray him soon after the first celebration of the Eucharist, I, as an ordained priest, have no problem in giving communion to the divorced, the re-married, the homosexual as long as they are clear in their conscience. If they are not clear in their conscience, the good Lord will take care of them. Christ never said a follower of him has to get a special training, and get ordained to celebrate the memorial of his last supper (Eucharist). We have given up our own rights to a bunch of administrators (priests, bishops, pope), and then we cry foul if they do not do what we have a right to.
I am reminded of a scene in the beginning of a pre-election campaign that elected Ronald Reagan as the 40th President of the United States in 1980. He was not very popular in the beginning of the campaign. So in the primaries his competitors would not give him microphone on a stage that he shared with other republican candidates. So he went and boldly snatched the mike from one of them right in front of the television cameras broadcasting the news to the nation. The rest is history. The bishops and pope will say this story has no relevance. Why? Because they rule according to the divine right. Well, you know what happened to the theology of the divine right of kings. The kings as well as the theology that supported them are all gone. You may also want to remember that this same theology taught that blacks did not have souls.
We need to be also aware that Bharatiya Janata Party that governs India now is not India. Similarly, the pope and the magisterium (the governing authority) are not the Catholic Church. We are the church together with them. They are or ought to be elected administrators of the Church. A pope elected by cardinals appointed by a previous pope does not make sense. Democracy is not perfect. Nonetheless, only democracy, not autocracy, can go with an enlightened spirituality. In passing I may also note that Pope Francis and I joined the Jesuits in the same year, that is, i958. Only I left the Jesuits after about 25 years after due discernment. While I have great admiration for the Jesuits, I can say I will not be able to write what I am writing as a Jesuit with a fourth vow to the pope. So kindly read what I write at your own risk! I may also say everyone of us who is baptized, male or female, is a priest. In fact I dare say everyone who follows the teaching of Christ is a priest through the baptism of desire. I am not advocating anarchy. I am only advocating sound theology, awareness, and conscientization so we all can be aware of our own rights as well as our own obligations. Of course, all this has to be done in the true spirit of Christ, in the theology of kenosis (emptiness: empty of ego). We have to fill ourselves with Christ, and empty ourselves of our own ego. Here we may have different views. But then we do not all understand Christ exactly the same way. So, finally, let us surrender ourselves to Christ so we can do his will. Lord, help us see things the way you see.
Swami Snehananda Jyoti