My son turns to me and says what my heart aches, “If we can’t go to church, I want Christ to make his home in my heart.” I can sense his longing. I explain how we can spiritually commune and invite Jesus in, but to receive him in fullness, both spiritually and physically, we will have to wait.
I am acutely aware of just how many times in these poignant days my mind and heart have drifted to the altar. How thick is my desire… The extenuating, quarantine circumstances press me. I realize this desire for the fullness of Christ is a part of me – wherever I go or don’t go, I long for the loving sustenance of the Mass – for the fullness of my Jesus. What a magnificent mystery – to be joined with the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ himself in the Eucharist and with the body of Christ as his mystical bride.
I remember only ten years ago as I prepared to make my first reconciliation. I was thirty-two years old, and was to be baptized and confirmed at the Easter Vigil of 2010. As Easter approached, I was like a nervous, hopeful bride – longing for sustaining grace and forgiveness in a way I had not experienced before. I longed for love to begin to make me whole and to be wholly loved by this Emmanuel, God-with-us. I had experienced the Holy Spirit working in my life, and Sacred Scripture had been my guide since I was a young child, but I began to long for communion with Jesus, for the lover of my soul to give himself to me fully in the eternal Mass.
Here and now, I sense this longing like I did then. The Holy Spirit is with me, and the Scriptures are my comforting guide, my sword, my lens, but I am reminded of years ago when I was preparing to come into the Church, and I hungered for the Blessed Sacrament. Oh how I thirsted for right, full communion. How I longed to be united and joined to the Mystical Body.
As I yearn, I think hard, I search my heart. I have been eternally privileged to enter into the Mass for ten years now. But before this crisis, only a few weeks ago, how hungry was I? How thirsty was I? Have I taken this gift of intimate love, this communion in the Blessed Sacrament as a matter of course, not letting the broken, tender bread penetrate my deep need? My thoughts spill—I think of how sad I am when my own children show glimpses of their hardened hearts—of how they can take my acts of love for granted. I wait, but how their hearts are prone to wander still.
I am reminded of that broken, thirty-two-year-old self again, the one who couldn’t find a way, couldn’t seem to find hope, and yet pure grace led to the sublime reality of the sacraments. My heart was raw for the desire to know mercy then. This unprecedented quarantine experience offers a divine invitation to deepen and renew ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament. The deepest desire of the human heart is for the bridegroom. This fasting from the Bread of Life that I am forced to undertake during this strange Lent is the most profound fast I have known. Might you and I join in solidarity as we experience our hunger for the Eucharist but cannot receive it? Let us also allow this longing to remind us of the call to fast and pray for all those souls who have never known Jesus in the Eucharist. Had this quarantine happened only a dozen years ago, I would not be blessed enough to miss Mass. I am so grateful to have this spiritual-physical longing that once I did not know.