Today is the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. With many people still unable to physically receive Communion, we should seek alternative ways to honor this day while looking forward to receiving the sacrament in the future.
Remember how for forty years the Lord has directed all your journeying. (Dt 8:2)
Can physical separation enhance your spirituality?
How do you express your longing for connection to God and community?
In Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to his community of God’s saving acts that liberated them from slavery. Moses reminds the Israelites that God has provided nourishment and care for them along their journey, sending manna, quail and water to sustain them (Ex 16:1-17:7). Manna, the bread from heaven, emerges under a layer of dewfall; it is similar to flaky wafers with the taste of honey, highlighting the sweetness of God’s gift. Manna from heaven has beautiful parallels to the Gospel of John, where Jesus calls himself the bread of life.
In John, Jesus alludes to manna when describing himself as living bread from heaven. John’s Gospel does not contain a Last Supper story, with the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, as is found in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:15-20). However, in today’s reading, we hear John’s language of sacramentality with Jesus identifying his body and blood as heavenly gifts that are true food leading to eternal life.
During this period of social distancing, most people have been physically unable to receive the body and blood of Christ. How, then, can we celebrate this feast that is so tangible in nature? Pope Francis has suggested a prayer for spiritual communion that acknowledges this challenge:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
The psalms can also help us express this sense of loss and longing. The psalms of Korah (Ps 42-49, 84, 85, 87 and 88), connected with a group of Temple personnel, are particularly apt. At times, the Korahites were isolated and separated from the Temple. Some of their psalms express desire to be near to God, and they emotionally and sometimes angrily request God’s help during moments of crisis: “As a deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God” (Ps 42:2); “How lovely is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps 84:2-3); “Awake! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Rise up! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face; why forget our pain and misery?” (Ps 44:24-25). Reading the psalms can help us to reflect on our emotions and struggles while helping us draw nearer to God.
As we continue along this journey, Scripture provides us with a wealth of texts that can sustain us. Like the Israelites, we might need to be reminded of the blessings we have already received from God. Like the Korahites, we might need to vent our angst and frustration while expressing our desire to be physically reunited with God and one another. And, as we see in the Gospel and in Pope Francis’ prayer, we should continue to look forward to receiving the body and blood of Christ again.