Flu virus 1, Jesus 0

At the Roman Catholic parish in my town, congregants coming to the mass were greeted with these words;

Please note.  The distribution of the precious blood is being suspended in the interest of health.  As soon as the flu season has passed, distribution of the precious blood will be resumed.  It is also asked that discretion is used when offering the sign of peace.

Does anyone else find this ironic?

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2 thoughts on “Flu virus 1, Jesus 0

    1. It’s a bit like the ironic gesture at some state executions. Did you know that when the state executes somebody by lethal injection, they sterilize the injection site first? In the act of killing someone they want to ensure they don’t develop an infection. I find that ironic.

      So, in Roman Catholic theology, the eucharist is a direct means through which the grace and salvation of Jesus – which is the power of God over sin and death – comes to the believer. The wafer and the cup are so holy and contain within them such power that the priest takes great care in handling the elements. The elements are protected against consumption by someone who is not worthy to take them (like me and other non-Roman Catholics according to RC theology and practice). What is not consumed in the mass is even locked away for safe keeping until the next mass (I’ve seen this done). Given all that, it seems odd that one would stop partaking of the cup because of the flu virus. It strikes me as an ironic gesture. In effect it is like saying; I believe that God is at work through Jesus to bring about my salvation and ultimate victory over death itself, I believe that the real presence of Jesus is in the wafer and cup, I believe the Eucharistic elements are actually transformed by the Spirit, which is a great mystery, by which the grace of the Son of God comes to believers, BUT I better hold off because of the flu virus.

      On one level the act of abstaining makes perfect sense when and where infectious disease is a concern. On another level, within sacramental theological understandings, I find it ironic. It is like letting the lesser thing (flu virus) take precedence over the greater thing (Jesus) and in the process revealing that perhaps people don’t really believe the greater thing as much as they say they do.

      As a protestant, we believe that the grace of Jesus comes to the believer by faith alone and the eucharist is a memorial and a celebration of that reality, so we aren’t making the same theological claims.

      Another, more detailed critique would be to look at Jesus call to anyone and everyone who would follow him. If you take Jesus at his word, following him will bring you directly into situations far more risky than the flu virus. So I think, too, that we misunderstand the fundamental call of Jesus when he says that anyone who would come after me must take up his cross (not jewelry back them, but an instrument of humiliation and death) and follow me. If we aren’t willing to risk a flu virus at the very site where heaven and earth meet (within RC theological frameworks) what is the likelihood that we will follow Jesus into the world as his hands and feet when that road leads to the cross? We can no more be resurrected without death than Jesus could. Letting the flu virus lay aside the full observance of the eucharist betrays a fear of death that is more powerful than the faith embodied in the act of communion itself.

      Those are two, more detailed, trains of thought which led to my finding wry humor in the circumstance. Hopefully you don’t hear me belittling or putting down the Roman Catholic faith. I do understand why the church choose to do what it did. I just find it ironic within a sacramental theological framework and against the backdrop of the costly discipleship that Jesus calls us to – Roman Catholic and Protestant alike.

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