During the past week or two, I’ve been reading lots of meditations regarding “including” everyone at “Christ’s table.” We hear a lot – a Lot – about not turning our backs on the unfortunate or seedier characters in the world during sanctimonious and squeaky clean Sunday sermons. I think that, especially during Lent, many of us stride out of church after mass or services and think, “I’m going to be kinder and more inclusive to those I meet in my life.” And then, within a few hours of running into someone different – perhaps someone poor, or gay, of with a different color skin, or a different religion, or just different manners – we usually shy away and back off (and that’s when we’re being polite; if we aren’t being polite, we mutter – or shout – names and epitaphs of condemnation and judgment).
Despite one of the maxims of Christianity being “don’t judge other people” and another being “be kind and charitable to everyone,” lots of self-proclaimed Christians hand out judgment much more readily than they hand out bread or companionship.
Shame. Shame, I say. For if you retreat behind your comfortable legalism and the security of what is “clearly” right and wrong, you miss the entire point of Christ’s ministry – whether or not you yourself are a Christian.
I have friends who are Catholic (I am not; I am Episcopalian) who have told me that while I am most certainly welcome at Mass, I cannot take Communion during service because I am not Catholic.
I think that this exclusion defies the very symbolism of Communion. Who is any one person to say what the state of a relationship between an individual and God is? If I’ve made my peace with God, how can you deny me a place at his table? In fact, anyone who does so directly contradicts Christ’s own message of welcoming everyone. In its most fundamental symbolic ritual, no human being has the authority to determine who may take Communion.
We are instructed to welcome and care for everyone, and to not deem any person worthy or unworthy, because as people we cannot know what is in someone else’s heart. That is solely between God and man. We are, however, told to keep all doors open and welcome with generosity and kindness every single person.
Good God, if we can’t include members of different churches at our table, how on earth can we pretend to be living the principles we claim to believe?