Invitations to the Table of the Lord

One of my struggles with Catholicism has to do with the question of who is invited to the Eucharist. Catholic teaching is that only those who are in “full communion with the Catholic Church” may receive Eucharist at a Catholic Mass.

I understand the words that explain the Catholic position – the belief that “the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship” – but it still makes me uncomfortable. I look at all the people Jesus shared bread with during his lifetime and I question whether Jesus would have adopted the same position.

Given that, I was moved by the Great Thanksgiving that was prayed immediately prior to the Sanctus at the Espicopal Mass I attended on Sunday morning. Here it is:

This is the table, not of the Church, but of God.
It is to be made ready for those who love God
and who want to love God more.

So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.
Come, not because I invite you: it is God, and it is God’s will
that you who want God should meet God here.

For me, this approach expresses the power of the Eucharist more than does an exclusionary approach. I am less interested in using the Eucharist as a sign that we are one than as a way for us to become one. Not a symbol of what is, but that which helps us to what can be. It is not an orthodox approach from a Catholic standpoint, but, it seems to me that it has a lot to recommend it.