The long coronavirus quarantine has, until recently, prevented me from attending Mass since early March. Up until this point in my life, I had never missed Mass more than once or twice in a year. Of course, during this unusual time, I did not “miss” Mass as if I just decided to skip it and go out for brunch instead. I watched Mass online, I prayed for spiritual communion, and I was very aware of the dispensation from attending Mass offered by the Church. But I certainly did “miss” Mass in so far as I longed for it. Not attending Mass made me aware of something absent in my life, something missing. At the heart of this absence was the ability to receive Christ in the Eucharist.
The quarantine made me reflect on what spiritual communion really meant. It was very comforting to think that, even though I could not receive the sacrament, I could still receive Jesus spiritually. This made me realize that all sacramental reception is always both spiritual and physical.
Before my extended absence from Mass, I probably would have reflected on this reading by noting that Catholics have the courage to believe the Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist: the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, as the reading says. This is both important and true. But now that I have been practicing spiritual communion for some time, I see that I was perhaps leaning too heavily on physical reception in the past. Since I could receive the sacrament and participate fully, I did not need to reflect on its spiritual effects. Effects such as deeper faith, stronger discipleship, renewed hope, and commitment to charity.
When I receive the Eucharist today on the Feast of Corpus Christi, I will be profoundly grateful for the substantial presence of Christ in the sacrament and I will have a greater appreciation for the spiritual effects of the sacrament in my life.