Praying that Catholics would understand and act on "the inseparable bond" between love of God…
When emotions are gone, choose love anyway
This weekend, I received the Eucharist for the first time in over two months. In my previous column, I wrote that as I anticipated returning to Mass, I asked the Lord to increase my love for him, especially in the Real Presence. And while this first time back wasn’t how I could have predicted, there was much grace to be seen and received.
It was a weekend for rejoicing for many reasons, not least of all that I was able to see much of my immediate family for the first time in two months. Living four hours and one state away, we were quarantined in our own little bubbles, and it was a blessing to spend time with my parents and two of my siblings — and to return to Mass not only with my parish family but my biological family.
Between handing tissues down the pew to my mom and hearing the best homily I could have heard that day, I will not likely forget this Mass.
As many of you have or will experience, there were limitations to how we celebrated the Paschal Mystery. Yes, we wore masks. No, we did not sing. Yes, pews were roped off to enforce social distancing. And no, we couldn’t hug our friends as we left.
But we were there. After months of waiting, we were able to come forward and receive Our Lord.
My pastor said it best in the shortest homily I’ve ever heard him give. He said: “The thing you want, and I want, and Jesus wants more than anything right now is for you to receive him in the Eucharist as soon as possible. You’ve waited long enough. I believe in one God… .”
I might have teared up for a brief moment before passing another tissue to my mom — because what more could my priest have said that hasn’t already been said? What more could we do to prepare than we’ve already done to prepare in the months of separation?
And yet, leading up to this first Mass back, there had been a doubt in my mind that was hard to dismiss — that I wasn’t ready to receive Our Lord. The Sunday prior, I had sat on my bedroom floor before my home altar and a livestreamed Eucharistic adoration chapel, continuing my tradition of honoring the sabbath and having brunch with Jesus. As I sat there, I began journaling how I felt guilty — guilty for not longing more for the Eucharist, for not aching for the separation to cease. Yes, I wanted to physically return to Mass, but the grace of making a spiritual communion most days of the week had kept the heartache at bay, and more quiet time with the Lord had given my heart much peace. I’m not traditionally an emotional person, even with the highs and lows of faith. And yet I worried that I wasn’t ready to receive Our Lord if I didn’t feel more in love than before.
Thankfully, I knew that wasn’t a good enough reason, for if I had only gone to Communion when I felt my heart burning with love, I would rarely have gone in the past. So, I reminded myself of the truth I needed to hear, and maybe you do, too: that love is not reliant on emotions; rather, it is about choosing that person over and over again, especially when the emotions are gone.
So, if you are eager to return to Mass with a heart full to the brim with love that has been cultivated over the last few months, praise God! But, if you have been faithful during this time of separation and feel guilty for not experiencing these emotions, don’t let that keep you back. If you need to go to confession first, do so if you can, but don’t let your emotions or lack-thereof keep you from coming to Mass.
For those of you who still are waiting for Mass to be made available in your area or are staying home due to uncertainty or health reasons, God is still with you! This time is an opportunity to choose Love himself, in whatever way we can.
So, when I walked up the line to Communion and took off my mask to receive Our Lord, I didn’t feel a flood of emotions. It felt like all those other times before COVID-19, and that is OK, because I made a choice of love. If that was your experience, you are not alone, and God is sowing quiet graces in your heart. And if you cried tears of joy at Mass, praise God! Above all, let’s continue to choose the path of love.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.