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How to receive the Eucharist worthily

If we approach the Eucharist unworthily, we not only offend God but also harm ourselves.

(Image: Josh Applegate | Unsplash.com)

In the Eucharist, we possess the greatest gift. Within it, Jesus gives us his entire self — body, blood, soul, and divinity — to be consumed under the appearance of bread and wine. But, as the saying goes, with great gifts comes great responsibility. To receive the fruits of this gift, we need to prepare ourselves and then live our lives in accord with it. If we approach the Eucharist unworthily, we not only offend God but also harm ourselves. Even Hollywood can see that on occasion, as the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade explains, “For the unrighteous, the Cup of Life holds everlasting damnation.

Let’s think of some other examples. Can you imagine showing up to your wedding while being engaged to someone else? What if you arrived at your first day of work in your pajamas? How about going to a fancy restaurant and putting your food on a paper plate? More seriously, imagine a general revealing your country’s plans to the enemy. The most important things in life require commitment, comportment, dignity, and fidelity. Therefore, we need commitment to Christ and cannot be attached to anything above him. We must be clothed in his grace and preserve the purity of our baptism. When we come to eat the Lord’s body, we need to come prepared as a worthy vessel that can hold the gift, rather than a leaky container. And we can’t take the gift and turn it over to the enemy by falling into sin.

St. Paul warns us of the consequences of receiving the Lord unworthily in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor 11:27-30). Paul foresees serious consequences for profaning the Eucharist. How, then, should we receive the Eucharist worthily?

First, we need faith in Jesus’s true presence in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a symbol. It is the body and blood of Jesus that he offers us to enter into communion with him. In John 6, Jesus explains how he gives us his very self to eat as our new Passover lamb: “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:55). Without faith in this true presence, we approach the Eucharist as if we were eating a regular piece of bread, dishonoring Jesus’s gift of himself in the sacrament. Faith enables us to discern his body, as Paul says, opening our hearts to Jesus’s love and grace.

Second, we also need to remove obstacles to receiving the grace of Jesus’s presence. If we are in a state of serious, mortal sin, we are not able or ready to enter into the communion that Jesus offers us. The Church offers us the Sacrament of Confession to bring us into right communion with God. In fact, the Church requires us to confess our sins once a year, because we all are in need of mercy and forgiveness. God enables us to lay our burdens aside and to come to him with a clear conscience. Going to confession creates the right disposition of openness and purity so that we can examine ourselves, as Paul instructs us.

Third, devotion enables us to honor Jesus’s presence by approaching him with reverence and love. We build devotion through prayer, including before and after Mass, by uniting ourselves to Christ’s offering of himself at Mass, and even by our posture and attitude. Do we act like Jesus is really present at Mass? Do we come to communion like we are approaching the king of the universe? If we come to communion solely out of a routine habit, with a casual or mundane disposition, it would be hard to “discern the body” of Jesus. Rather, we should approach Mass with the greatest expectation as the most important moment of our week when we meet the Lord and become one with him.

Finally, receiving worthily flows from a life lived in conformity to the Eucharistic gift. We should not confine communion with Jesus to an hour a week. It should blossom into a Eucharistic life, with Jesus’s presence abiding in us and reaching out to others. If our life is going a different direction, we need to turn back in the right direction to make a worthy communion. The Eucharist requires continuous conversion, turning away from the world and toward Jesus, allowing his grace to shape everything that we do.

The Eucharist is a source of life, not death. If we approach it worthily, we can profess that for the righteous, for those who receive the Lord’s mercy and approach with faith and devotion, the Cup of Life holds everlasting salvation.


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About Dr. R. Jared Staudt 18 Articles
R. Jared Staudt PhD, serves as Associate Superintendent for Mission and Formation for the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor for the Augustine Institute. He is author of Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option (Angelico Press) and the editor of Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press). He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

14 Comments

  1. It should not only be about receiving the Eucharist worthily but above all it is also about administering the Eucharist worthily. Bishops and priests who have become partisan lapdogs and have weaponized the Eucharist to deny them to Catholics who do not share their political views are not celebrating the sacrament worthily. They have become unworthy of their ordination.

    • In today’s post-Christian world, even the reality of abortion has been falsely politicized. Everything (!) has been politicized. Even human sexuality.

      The task for the perennial Church is to restore a lost moral culture even while being (predictably) slandered by political statements such as your own. The “weaponized” thingy is a vastly overused/meaningless slogan often used by lapdogs.

    • Weaponized”?? Really?? A very curious statement since I have not yet seen a Bishop with enough gumption to make a sound statement to any politician who is Catholic and a rabid supporter of infanticide, that they are not to receive Communion. If this simple act is indeed a weapon, it has not been deployed, making it effectively useless. I have noticed the left never seems to want to be told any opinion contrary to their own, and will slander those offering a differing opinion with accusations of racism, hate speech, and now “Weaponizing” the Eucharist. The truth is the truth, whether or not those on the left like it. Refusing the Eucharist has been used in the past on Kings who went astray of church teaching. There is no reason at all not to use it today. Since the pro-abortion crowd have effectively left the church already by virtue of their stance, maybe they should consider leaving in actual fact, instead of pretending to believe in church teaching when they obviously do not.

    • The only reason I am aware of that some priests/bishops would deny the Eucharist is the person receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is in the state of mortal sin for having publicly condoned and encouraged abortion. That is not “weaponizing” the Eucharist. It is protecting the Eucharist from blasphemy and profanation.

    • With respect – abortion is not a “political view.” And those who support abortion have already separated themselves from the Body of Christ. Anyone who procures an abortion or who helps to procure an abortion is automatically excommunicated. It does not need a writ from a Bishop or a formal declaration – that person has excommunicated themselves. Of course, anyone who decides that their individual view of morality is more important the teaching of the Church and who receives Communion with a serious sin that remains unabsolved has also separated themselves from the Catholic Church. There is a word for this – it is “Protestant,” for that is the foundation of every Christian sect that has separated itself from the Church.

    • @ Kee.
      The Most Holy Eucharist is not a political “object” to be bartered with rhetorically to somehow demonstrate proof of “inclusivity” — The Eucharist is thr Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of Jesus Christ, and he who receives Him unworthily (in a state of mortal sin) brings condemnation upon himself! If any Catholic publicly or privately promotes or advocates abortion, same sex unions, transgender ideology is not in communion with the Catholic Church, and commits mortal sin in doing so. The Eucharist is given to Catholics who have received the Sacraments of Initiation and are not in a state of mortal sin. The Catholic Church is not a democracy. It is a Monarchy, whose King is Jesus Christ. By demanding the Eucharist be “distributed” to any who want to receive regardless is “politicizing and weaponizing” the Eucharist. Jesus Christ rewards sinners, but only if those sinners repent!!

  2. Actually, NO ONE can receive the Eucharist worthily – “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

    It sounds better in Latin – “Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur animum meum.”

    • It is true that no one is worthy to receive the Lord. Making a worthy communion is the Church’s tradition language for receiving the Eucharist properly.

  3. YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST 2008
    “I AM THE LIVING BREAD” JOHN 6:51 – COMMUNION THANKSGIVING: THE DIVINE PRAISES
    Blessed be God.
    Blessed be His holy name.
    Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
    Blessed be the holy name of Jesus Christ.
    Blessed be His loving and sacred Heart.
    Blessed be His Body and Blood.
    Blessed be His passion and resurrection.
    Blessed be Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
    Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Giver of life.
    Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
    Blessed be Holy Mary, the Virgin Mother of God.
    Blessed be her Immaculate Conception.
    Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
    Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.
    Blessed be our God, always now and for ever and ever. Amen.
    •This Thanksgiving prayer takes 1-2 minutes and fills in a glaring omission, that of thanking God for the great gift of the Holy Communion. There are prayers after Communion now, but they are still a ‘give us’ not a ‘thank you’ – eucharistia. What guest with what manners would rush out after a dinner without complimenting/thanking their host? The exposition of the Blessed Sacrament takes place par excellence at every Holy Communion. Can the Body and Blood of Our Lord be ever more exposed in this life than at Holy Communion?
    •More important still, is to receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, worthily (1 Corinthians 11:28-29, Matthew 5:23, 6:15) – to be free, beforehand, from serious sin, to pray at least the biblical act of contrition, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom”, and to go to Confession when necessary.
    •Rightly we complain about disrespect shown to the Blessed Sacrament. But what does shunting the tabernacle from its front-and-center location to the sidelines tell the Faithful? Towards what do we genuflect? Restoring the tabernacle with its perpetual candle to the middle of the altar area –its universal location for many centuries and still its location in some churches– would rectify the schism between the altar and the tabernacle and would showcase the Eucharist as the center of Church life. Also, an image of the Last Supper by the altar, such as the one at Saint Maximilian Kolbe church in Mississauga, the Consolata Missionaries’ chapel in Toronto and in many other Orthodox and Catholic churches, from Rio de Janeiro to Jerusalem, would call to mind the roots of the Eucharist.
    Slavic Christian Society / Société Chrétienne Slave / Slăviansko Xristianskoe Sŏbranie, Mississauga, http://slavxrist.org 2000, 2004, 2008.

    • Restoring position of the Blessed Sacrament to the centre makes sense only of the priest celebrates the Mass facing It. As the things stand after the “renewal”, what is now referred to as the “Mass facing people” is in fact the Mass turning the back to Christ in the tabernacle.

  4. Priests should set the example in giving reverence to our Lord Jesus Christ. In one parish I used to go to, the priest runs through all the prayers, including Consecration, as if he was in a hurry to catch the bus. He distributes communion in like manner, roughly pushing the Sacred Host on the hand. I wrote him a respectful letter, to no avail. God led me to the Latin Mass six years ago and I am glad I do not have to deal with a speedy priest anymore, just immerse myself in the silence, solemnity, reverence and beauty of the ancient Mass.

  5. You are so right Mr. Espinosa. My wife and I have been attending the TLM for the past 4 years and found in it all that is desired by the current religious catch phrase, “Eucharistic coherence”. Sadly, our Supreme Pontiff has made this route “verboten” for team-playing clergy.

  6. Great article. Informative for those who desire the information.
    I would add that if you believe you have received Eucharist when you should have not,RUN to confession.
    This sin is forgiveable and God waits to give you His Mercy.

  7. I am a sinner like everyone else and I ask for forgivness everyday of my life and thank God everyday for another day of living. I cannot always make it to confession due to the time restrictions that most Catholic church’s have on this sacrament. Some church’s have less then one hour a week on a Saturday!.Tell me what is that about? Padre Pio and St. John Vianny spent hours on end in the confessionalSo why can’t our clergy do more? I feel in my heart that I am worthy to receive even if I have sinned and know most of my sin is habitual.I say an act of contrition, and get to confession soon after. If the sacrament of confession is so important,then the church needs to make the time to make it more important!

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