Q - I was recently posed the question, "Is a literal interpretation of true presence in the Eucharist (and subsequently receiving the sacrament) a requirement for salvation?" My answer was "yes," as backed up by John 6: 53-58 and other sources of church teaching that expound on the necessity of and graces poured out in receiving Christ in the Eucharist. After further thought however, I'm beginning to have some doubts. At the time of baptism, we receive sanctifying grace and need nothing else. For most Catholics, there is a multiple year time span between baptism and first communion. Are these children lacking in salvation because they haven't received Eucharist? Also, we maintain that there are non-catholics in heaven. How could they get there if they don't believe in or receive sacramental Eucharist? Am I missing something?
A - Thanks for the question. There is a bit of confusion and I hope I can help you out, though I might even add to it with my answer below.
First off, there seem to be some contradictions with Catholic doctrines as we have below.
- The Eucharist is necessary for salvation. Jesus clearly teaches in John 6 that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood for eternal life. He couldn't be more clear.
- We are saved by grace and the Eucharist gives us grace we need to resist sin and be faithful.
- Some who are non-Catholic might be saved through Baptism (whether an explicit baptism or a baptism of blood or a baptism of desire), though they never received the Eucharist.
How do we reconcile these teachings? Well, we must understand them in their proper context.
Receiving the Eucharist is necessary for salvation of those that know the truth about the Eucharist. Therefore, a Catholic, who knows the teachings of the Church about the Eucharist, and who deliberately refuses to receive the Eucharist is putting their souls in grave danger. As adult Catholics, we are required to receive the Eucharist for our salvation, once we know the truth about it.
Yet, a non-Catholic who might not know the truth of the Eucharist or who might not believe it, even if he knows it, is not necessarily part of the normative requirement to receive the Eucharist as part of their salvation. Rather, the grace they receive through baptism is enough for their salvation.
I hope this helps.