Friday, September 21, 2007

Did Jesus deny sinners communion?

Remember my article on Archbishop Burke's study on denying communion to public sinners? Well, it was published yesterday, and I have already received a response. This kind letter writer asked my if Jesus denied Judas communion. This is how I responded:

Dear ----,

In looking at the Scriptures, I would say it's a little unclear whether Jesus gave first Holy Communion to Judas. Remember that the first Mass took place during a Seder meal, meaning that, in addition to the elements consecrated by Jesus as His Body and Blood, other alimentary elements were also consumed (i.e., Mk. 14:18 -- "And while they were at table eating...").

St. Mark and St. Matthew clearly separate out Judas' betrayal as prior to the words of consecration (see Mtt. 26:20-39 and Mk. 14:17-31). It is true, however, that in St. Luke's Gospel -- but only in this Gospel -- the mention of Judas' betrayal of Jesus takes place after the celebration of the first Mass. But since St. Luke is considered more of a compiler of prior sources, whereas Ss. Matthew and Mark are the very prior sources on which St. Luke may have relied, I believe the chronology expressed in these first two Gospels would more closely adhere to what took place. When these considerations are added to the fact that, in St. John's Gospel, Judas leaves after taking the dipped morsal (see Jn. 13:30) but before what is traditionally considered the first Eucharistic prayer (see Jn. 17), it seems quite clear that Judas was present for the Seder meal but made his exit before the first Mass took place.

A more troubling question is this: Why are you attempting to be a literal, Bible-quoting Christian in this instance when there are other instances (such as the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality) where you would likely hesitate to take biblical passages literally? This seems to me a rather selective approach.

I think it is far safer to draw one's general principles from the Bible and trace them as they've been taught and explained by our shepherds, the first of whom Christ consecrated at that same first Holy Mass. Archbishop Burke is among those successors to the apostles. Here's one general biblical principle he started with: "And Jesus said to His disciples, 'It is impossible that scandals should not come; but woe to him through whom they come! It were better for him if a millstone were hung about his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin" (Lk. 17:1-2).

In Christ,

Franz Klein
Staff Writer, The Catholic Times
(608) 788-1524, ext. 5

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