The early part of the coronavirus quarantine had a significant impact on my attendance at Mass and reception of the Eucharist. Before the pandemic, I had never missed Mass more than once or twice in a year. While my parish was not holding in-person liturgy, I watched Mass online, I prayed for spiritual communion, and I was very aware of the dispensation from attending Mass offered by the Church. Not attending Mass during that time 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 the pandemic, I probably would have reflected on this reading by noting that Catholics have the courage to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist based on his clear words at the Last Supper from today’s reading. This is both important and true. But after practicing spiritual communion for an extended period, 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.
Fortunately, I am seeing the faithful come back to parish Masses more and more each week. 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.
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