This morning at Mass, my pastor announced that because of the danger of transmission of the Swine Flu virus, the Diocese of Savannah has made the decision that, until further notice, the communion cup will not be administered to the laity.
Father added that up until after the Second Vatican Council the host only was ordinarily received at Communion. He assured everyone that Jesus is just as present, body, soul, blood and divinity, in the bread as in the wine.
The Bad Catholic is glad that the diocese is worried about the health of its parishioners. The Bad Catholic wonders, however, if we are not over reacting a little bit. So far, it really doesn't appear to be any worse than the regular influenza virus that reportedly kills approximately 38,000 people every year that most of us hardly notice. Some talking heads I heard on the radio last week were saying that this strain of flu may not be as virulent as first thought. I suppose that if the CDC or the World Health Organization decides that this is not a major health hazard, or whenever there is an effective vaccine or treatment, that we can get our communion cups back. Until then, it looks like it is Jesus versus the Swine Flu.
And all joking aside, theologically speaking, it is Jesus versus sickness and death. Sickness and death came into the world as a consequence of sin. This is why there is death and decay. The world is not like it is supposed to be. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that suffering, illness and death are temporal consequences of sin. (CCC paragraph 1264).
Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death. . . . It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil . . . Christ's compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that 'God has visted his people' and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. . . .
Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.' But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the 'sin of the world,' of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 1500 - 1505).
In the meantime, let us offer up the sacrifice of taking communion in both species as a penance, and use this as an opportunity to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering from all kinds of sickness.
For an excellent discussion of the mystery of suffering and evil from a Catholic Christian perspective, I strongly recommend The Tears of God: Perservering In the Face of Great Sorrow or Catastrophe by Father Benedict J. Groeschel.