The Holy Eucharist is a Gift We Don’t Deserve

Let us grieve over the distance, long for our Lord in the Eucharist, and stay close to him in our hearts.

Meister des Hausbuchs, “The Last Supper,” 1578
Meister des Hausbuchs, “The Last Supper,” 1578 (photo: Public Domain)

I stood in the living room of my home with my mother, who was visiting us for a few days before all the social restrictions happened. We had the Mass livestreaming from my mother’s parish, and it had just begun. Father came onto the screen alone, and looked out into the empty church and began the prayers of the Mass.

A surge of emotion ran through my whole being and I ducked out of the room. I began to sob as I thought of this young priest alone in an empty church, a church normally populated by the older parishioners of the parish for the early morning Mass. The sheer loneliness of it filled my being. I cried as I wondered how long it would be before I could again be in the Eucharistic presence. I thought of my grandparents who depend on daily Mass as they come to the end of their years. They go out of love of Our Lord. And now they are grieving.

It is okay to grieve and long for Mass and the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. My pastor described it as a long Good Friday in the homily we watched from our home this past Sunday. For those of us who cannot make it into a church even for prayer, the absence of the Eucharistic presence is striking.

But it is also a reminder that the Eucharist is a gift. It is not something we have a right to receive. We do not deserve to receive Our Lord. When we cannot be with the Eucharistic presence, when we cannot receive him physically into our bodies, we can grow in gratitude for the complete gift of himself that Our Lord made for us in instituting the Eucharist before he gave up his life for our sins.

We have been watching daily Mass online some days from our parish and other days from my mother’s parish. During every daily internet Mass I am overwhelmed with a longing for the Eucharist but also with the Lord’s consolations. He is comes to us even when we cannot go to him.

In our human weakness we can only do so much, but our God? He can do all things. He gave us the sacraments as a gift, as a promise that he is giving us his grace, but he is not bound or limited by the sacraments he instituted for us. My children learn in their catechism that we receive grace through the sacraments, but also through prayer. We are not cut off from his grace when we cannot go to Mass. And really, his grace is the most important thing. His grace is just what we need in this time of suffering for our entire world.

We have to remember, in this time of social and sacramental distancing, that the Lord is with us.

My 7-year-old daughter has been preparing to make her First Communion in May, though we have told her that she might have to wait longer. We have already had to postpone her First Reconciliation because of our illness. I see in her the same longing I have, the same longing others have expressed to me. While we homeschool her catechism class, we talk about the Eucharist together. She knows of his true presence. She believes. Her mind and conscience are ready to receive the graces of Confession. But she, too, has to wait.

I am looking at her patience as a model for myself. She knows, she is ready, like a bride waiting for her wedding. But it is not the right time. We, the longing Church, can be like my little future first communicant. We are his bride, and like in the Song of Solomon, we cannot find our love, our Lord. “I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer” (Songs 3:1).

Yet, we have hope, for this distance from the Eucharist will not be forever. Our bridegroom will come to us again.

Further, and God in his providence has provided another avenue of grace with Pope Francis’ giving a plenary indulgence to those who are sick with the coronavirus, those who care for them, and those who pray for them. This is on top of the general partial indulgences we can receive every day for patiently go about our daily works and sufferings and pause to unite them to God through a short prayer.

Let us grieve over the distance, long for our Lord in the Eucharist, and stay close to him in our hearts. He will never leave us. And he never stops offering the gift of his grace.