This pandemic has certainly given us pause to step back and look at many things we had been taking for granted, including Holy Communion. Many of us began praying one or another version of a “Spiritual Communion” prayer – asking Jesus to enter spiritually in the absence of the opportunity to go through the Communion line.
I find that our view of this sacrament can be rather one-dimensional. Receiving Communion is not just a matter of Jesus entering into us. The reverse is even more true – we are received into Jesus. In the words of Saint Augustine of Hippo, “You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me.” We become the Body of Christ every time we receive the Body of Christ. That also means we are united in love as the one Body of Christ, re-committed and aided in our desire to love our neighbor. Saint Augustine and Saint John Chrysostom reflect on the importance of loving our neighbor – including our enemy – if we are to claim that we love Jesus. Augustine suggests that claiming to love Jesus while hating our brother is like giving Jesus the kiss of peace while stomping on his feet with spiked boots (ouch!).
During this time in which we are so sorely tempted by divisiveness and tension, let us draw from the wisdom of Augustine, John Chrysostom, and several other early Church Fathers, not to mention Sacred Scripture itself. Inspired by them and my prayerful reading of them, I offer you this prayer of Spiritual Communion:
Lord Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. I profess that Holy Communion feeds me with your flesh and blood, heals me of my spiritual sickness, and gives me ever deeper life as a member of your Body, united with the men and women of every time and place who share in this great Communion.
Even if I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, I desire deeply to receive you into my heart and to be received into your Sacred Heart. I long to be fully alive as a member of your Body, intimately close to you and to all the other members, with whom I am called to share eternal life.
Jesus, I confess that my heart sometimes resists this great Communion of Love. I recognize that your Love, Jesus, is infinitely greater than my own, and I beg you for the freedom and courage to be plunged into the great ocean of your Love. Lead me ever more deeply into the union that you have with your Father, and which you so deeply desire to share with each and all of us. Help me to set aside my self-reliance and self-protection and allow my heart to be transformed by your Love today.
Jesus, I also confess and recognize that my heart sometimes resists Communion with the other members of your Body, especially those who have harmed me, those who do not understand me, those whom I do not understand, those who disagree with me, or those who are different from me. I renew my commitment to be one with each and all of them in your great Love.
Jesus, Divine Physician, heal whatever in my heart blocks out this great Communion.
Jesus, Shepherd of Souls, lead me to good pastures, and nourish me with the strength I need today. Lead me to living waters and help me to drink deeply from this saving stream that brings such great gladness. May my soul never stop hungering and thirsting for union with you until the day when we are all perfectly united in your Love, and you become All in All.