By Bishoy Dawood
In the majority of liturgical rites in its diversity of languages and ritual prayers, it is common to find a pre-communion prayer of unworthiness to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Roman rite, this prayer is found as a rephrased sentence in the first person from the Roman Centurion’s meeting with Christ to request healing for his slave: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” (cf. Matt. 8:8).
The prayer helps the person who will receive communion to remember that one is approaching a holy mystery, so one ought to be prepared with pure thoughts and intentions, with a humble heart and forgiveness of neighbours, to be sanctified by what is received.
In the context of LGBT people, though, the association of lifestyle choices with sinful behaviour often leads to the conviction that LGBT are in a constant state of sin: because of a strong identification of LGBT people with sexually impure thoughts or actions, they are thus never worthy to receive of the sacred mysteries. This is an unfortunate consequence of associating what could potentially be loving relationships and friendships with the sin of lust; of being convinced by both secular and ultra-conservative voices that LGBT people are “of the world,” are by their own nature and choices living contrary to Church teaching, and as such can never be pure enough to be worthy of receiving the Eucharist.
Yet such ideas, though popular, are far from the Catholic theology and spirituality of the Eucharist. Catholic theology does not hold that certain people, and in our case, LGBT people, are totally depraved by the nature of their sexuality and gender, or are totally unworthy of grace. Rather, it is the teaching of the Church that all human persons, in all their diversity, are created in the image of God, and have the potential to grow in holiness and goodness into the likeness of God. The image of God in the human person is never lost, neither by personal sins, nor sexual orientations and gender identities, nor even by the Fall and inheritance of Original Sin. Human beings are the creatures who bear the image of God in them as a seed that enables them to love God and one another; and by living virtuously as Christians, guided by the Holy Spirit, they can grow and become like God. Thus, LGBT people, created in the image of God, can live virtuously as Christians, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments, can grow into the likeness of God.
Our prayer of unworthiness is about recognizing the presence of God and about being humbly prepared to be transformed by the grace of the sacraments — it is never about being a sinful creature in God’s eyes. Being LGBT people does not make us unworthy to receive communion. If the prayer of unworthiness is difficult for LGBT people to use because of the negative associations just mentioned, perhaps it might help to tweak the prayer and personalize it in the case of LGBT people, to make the experience of communion more positive. Perhaps, we could pray: “Lord, I am worthy to receive you under my roof, for I am made in your image. Help me to love you and my neighbour, so I can grow to become in your likeness.”
At All Inclusive Ministries, we welcome LGBT Catholics to full participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist. We are worthy to be Daughters and Sons of the Father, we are worthy to be Brothers and Sisters as a Catholic community in the Body of Christ, and we are worthy to be made perfect in the likeness of God through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit.
Come and see! Come and taste! Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps. 34:8)