Communion and Controversy

Some Bishops seem to be facing a rebellion of sorts because they have decided no communion on the tongue for a while. I think those Bishops made a good (but not the only possible) call. We are in the midst of an evolving pandemic with a virus we have never seen before; the information is coming fast and furious and our understanding changes. There are few things on which we can rely without hesitation

Considering all this, the USCCB has indicated that communion on the tongue can be given safely with no increased risk, if done properly.That qualifier is important and some Bishops have decided that, for a number of reasons, communion on the tongue should be restricted for now. It’s difficult to argue that “can be proper.y done” and “will be properly done” are different things and the latter is necessary for safety. I suspect they also take note of the fact that communion on the tongue necessarily puts the minister in closer proximity to saliva and breath, both of which are potentially infectious. That’s a good basis for a prudential decision in a remarkable time when it’s not only good, but perhaps necessary, to do things differently.

I feel for them. Many folks who are first to talk about obedience, including adherence to prior decisions to the contrary, are now all about “rights.”

Science aside for the moment, it seems to me it’s the wrong language. Servants don’t speak of rights because they don’t have them. Friends don’t because they don’t need them. Once we start talking about rights, we have admitted a rupture of relationship into the adversarial realm, one where we not only do not trust the other person, but expect him to harm us.

God as man never once asserted his many “rights” against us, maintaining to the last his role as servant and friend. I think that might be part of what he means by “I am the way.” It’s what we are to imitate. And it’s tough.

One root of the word “obedience” is “to listen to.” Given the regularity with which the disciples got it wrong, I am not terribly confident when I hear clearly and in detail except a few things. “Love God, love each other as another self.” “Follow (imitate) me.” “If you can’t believe in me, believe in the works. Either will spur you on.” “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” I am inherently suspicious of those who claim to know the path—or God’s will—in exhaustive detail. Obedience lies in relationships and in constant give and take of intimate conversation.

Such things are hard to nail down. I look at how my kids are arranging their lives, so different than mine (or what I might have wished for them) but still obedient to what they learned and who they are and the gifts they have.

It’s a hard way to go about it. But it seems the path. And sometimes we walk it in darkness out of trust in the one who is the Way.  The question is not “What are my rights?” so much as it is “How do I best relate as servant and friend to the people around me?”