Why do so many "go through the motions" and leave Mass not feeling any closer to the Lord? Fr. Erik Arnold highlights the power of making a personal response to the Lord by looking at the similarity between what happens during the Discovering Christ retreat and what happens when we make an Act of Spiritual Communion.

By: Fr. Erik Arnold

We often share about the love God has for each person, but we rarely present them with an opportunity to make a response to that proclamation. One of the things that needs to be changed in the life of our parishes is giving men and women the opportunity to not just hear, but respond to the Good News. In Discovering Christ, there's a powerful spiritual dynamic at work. We not only announce the good news of God's love, but give people a chance to respond from their heart.

During these months of lockdown and stay-at-home orders, many people have live streamed Mass and prayed along at home. When it came time for communion, you likely prayed an Act of Spiritual Communion. You might feel this prayer is a placeholder, something to “fill in the gap” until you’re able to receive the Eucharist. Or maybe you think the Church gave us this prayer as “the next best thing.”

But, there is something really powerful happening. In the Act of Spiritual Communion, you pray and proclaim:

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.

Notice the intentionality. You’re making an act of the will. I don't want you to miss the spiritual power in that.

This is the same spiritual power at work during the Discovering Christ retreat. People have the opportunity to say, "Lord, this is what I want. I want to turn to You and make a response to Your love.”

This personal response unleashes spiritual power.

When it comes time to receive Holy Communion at Mass, too many Catholics simply go through the motions. We are all guilty of this at one time or another. We get out of the pew, come forward, say amen, and receive Jesus. How many times have we each done this without any awareness of what is truly happening? 

Let’s bring the spiritual power of our personal response to receiving the Holy Eucharist.

After months of making an act of the will through the Act of Spiritual Communion, we have an opportunity to bring together the spiritual power of that prayer with the actual grace of receiving Jesus sacramentally. 

If you’re among those people still unable to go to Mass and feeling frustrated as you continue praying the Act of Spiritual Communion—see the spiritual power in that prayer.

When you are able to return to Mass, keep the Act of Spiritual Communion alive in your heart. As you come forward to receive Jesus sacramentally, make the decision in your heart to continue praying, "Lord, I want You to come and dwell within my heart."

My prayer is that one of the blessings we’ll see from these days of stay-at-home orders, is a spiritual power in the moment we're able to receive Jesus physically in the Sacrament because of the graces we’ve received from regularly making an Act of Spiritual Communion. May we be deliberate about welcoming the Lord into our hearts in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, His Body and Blood, in a more powerful way than ever—not just going through the motions, but making a personal response to welcome Jesus into our hearts.

The content of this blog was originally posted as part of the For Such A Time As This video series reflection "Responding to God."