Q. I try to attend weekday Masses several times a week. However, because of my work schedule, I sometimes arrive late. May I still receive communion when I am late to Mass?
A. When we actively participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass beyond our Sunday obligation, the Lord offers us many graces. The Mass is the greatest prayer: it is the prayer of Christ’s obedient love to his Heavenly Father. And Jesus allows us to enter into that prayer. I hope that you continue this practice of attending Mass on a daily basis.
The Code of Canon Law states that “Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them” (Ca. 843).
Our hearts must be properly prepared to receive our Lord any time we approach him in the reception of the Eucharist. St. Paul speaks of the necessity of being properly disposed: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). This means that to receive communion we must be free from mortal sin—a sin that is a serious matter, sufficiently reflected upon, and carried out through the free consent of the will.
To hold on to an unconfessed mortal sin is a to live outside of God’s grace, apart from his love and mercy, and so to receive communion in this state would be sacrilegious and a contradiction within the self.
The hour fast prior to the reception of Holy Communion should be observed as a means to prepare the heart of the communicant to receive the Lord. In addition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church advises that “Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” (CCC 1387).
Your attendance at Mass during the week is not obligatory, but laudable. Since it is not obligatory, all that is required for your worthy reception of the Eucharist at Mass is that you are properly disposed and not prohibited by law from receiving the sacraments—even if you were to arrive late to the Mass.
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