Online Mass – Not the Real Thing, but yet Wonderful! (Part II)

daily online mass

Edited by Fr. Joaquim Lobo and published in Sangati, June 2020 (Salesian Magazine, Goa)

PART 2  –  Lessons through “Spiritual Communion”

Through the Lockdown experience, many have learnt about Spiritual Communion, which, if applied in the physical setting in the future when churches re-open, will surely yield a spiritual treasure. Receiving Communion now becomes a more profound and impactful experience than ever before! This is how it was always meant to be. Unfortunately, many Catholics have failed to understand the seriousness of Holy Communion and of Jesus being present on the Altar. Whether it is by online Mass or at church, one needs to get to the foot of the Cross and reflect on Jesus’ Passion in order to experience a meaningful participation in the Sacrament. Hidden within this prayer below are many lessons to be sought out and grasped.

Prayer of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, please come spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as though You have already come, and unite myself entirely to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

Even in church, “Spiritual Communion” has to precede the physical act of receiving Communion! Many of us Catholics are unaware of this basic truth – that a prayerful uniting with the crucified Jesus is what makes Communion a ‘UNION’. This ignorance renders a person incapable of truly being immersed in the Liturgical celebration and graces are missed out. So even when we go back to Mass at a church or chapel, the concept of this prayer needs to be imprinted on our hearts and minds in preparation, both before Mass, and also during the time of Holy Communion. Being physically present at church and spiritually absent in context of reflecting on the Passion of Christ will not yield the Eucharistic graces of the Mass. Through the season of lockdown and having no choice but to attend online Mass, this wonderful and very important lesson has been understood by many! What a blessing!

Family Unity and Praying Together

Devil: With Covid-19, I closed all your churches.

God: On the contrary, I opened one in every home!

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Matt 18:20

These words of Jesus are a promise which never fails! A household opens itself to divine graces when its inmates pray together in unity within the walls of the house. Many families of the present times have neglected this practice. Many do it, but for the wrong reasons of carrying on a family tradition or as a ritual. This season of pandemic and the online Mass facility has helped millions of families get back to Family Prayer. This is the Lord at work!

For example, when a sincere sign of peace is exchanged to one another at Mass, a spiritual bond occurs. This may not happen at church among family members as they may sit apart from each other due to lack of seats, babysitting or the convenience of going to different Masses. Even if this does happen at church among family, the risk is that the routine of the ‘sign of peace’ gesture may make the act heartless and meaningless. This is just one example of how the online Mass at home can lead to spiritual bonding in the family.

Testimonies of people who benefited from online Mass

  1. “We are so blessed that God has allowed us to continue to feast at His table through the online Mass during this lockdown. Although unable to receive communion physically, our family with 3 kids has continued to come to His table daily and receive communion with Him spiritually very tangibly as the highest form of our daily worship. God is indeed with us.”
  2. “I have been going for Mass for 15 years, but now with online Mass and the ‘Spiritual Communion’ prayer, I have understood with deeper conviction the importance of the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Communion.”
  3. “The online Mass has helped me focus on the Word of God and Liturgy without the distractions which I continuously had at church, especially that of looking at other women’s clothing and thinking of shopping. Now I have the confidence to overcome the same distractions when I return to church.”
  4. “Our family never had so much spiritual unity and compatibility as nowadays, thanks to the online services which we attend together and encounter the Lord together in our very own home. Family unity has now improved tremendously and the children are growing in the Lord.”
  5.  “For me personally, it’s been so heartening to see every member of my family play an active role in setting up the home altar and attending online Mass in a state of grace. This made such a difference to everyone! Truly God makes a way when there seems to be no way!”

Conclusion

Online Mass definitely does not take the place of the real thing. Online Mass can replace the church Mass only when the latter is NOT available. When churches do open up and the option of attending Mass is available, we have to let go of the comforts of the living room and go to the Altar! It will be a mistake to avoid doing this, unless there is a situation of serious illness, handicap or extreme weather conditions. The “Sunday Obligation” will hold good and the online Mass will neither fulfil it nor replace it. We are called to worship at Mass with the wider community.

As with other tragedies, struggles and suffering – Through Jesus, water is turned to wine, sorrow to joy and darkness to light. The positive difference in people’s understanding of Holy Mass because of the pandemic is worth noting. Thousands of “out-standing Catholics” will henceforth be active participants and sincere seekers! When the situation allows for churches to open and for Masses to resume, returning to Mass at church can now be done more sincerely with a deeper reverence for the Lord. Equipped with certain spiritual truths learnt while in lockdown mode, one can draw all the more benefit from this empowering Sacrament! Indeed, the ways of God are mysterious. He turns all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). May our spiritual eyes be opened by always remembering the concept of “Spiritual Communion”. Let’s not merely attend Mass for the sake of doing so, but participate wholeheartedly and reap the empowering and transforming benefits of meeting Jesus in the Holy Eucharist!

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