by Faye Akers
As we prepare for the Phase I return to daily Mass with many remaining social distancing guidelines this week, I’ve spent some time considering what I’ve learned about the presence of Jesus in my life while unable to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned is how Jesus has been present to me in and through others as I’ve struggled spiritually, emotionally, and mentally these past few months.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, my mother-in-law passed away at Wesley Acres care center. Because it was mid-March, she was cremated and we were unable to have a funeral or memorial service for her. My husband and his siblings were only able to be with her on her last day because she was in hospice care. Through the love and concern of the staff at Wesley Acres, Jesus was present to us all.
A few days later, our daughter who had been serving with the Peace Corps in Paraguay received 24-hour notice of her evacuation back to the U.S. As we prepared for her arrival from another country that required travel through several international airports, fear of the unknown and whether she would bring the virus with her took over my mind. We prepared a bedroom and our second bathroom for her use and made plans for all of us to self-quarantine for 14 days. It was through the love of my husband and children that I felt the presence of Jesus and was able to deal with my anxieties.
That same week, our daughter who had been at Rockhurst College in Kansas City came home to finish her studies virtually for the semester. Again, fear from an uncertainty about who she had been with the previous few weeks and how careful they had been in sheltering overcame me. We quickly prepared another bedroom for her and I felt the presence of Jesus by talking with a close friend who was going through a similar re-entrance of young adults in her home.
Later in the week, our daughter who lives near us in West Des Moines decided not to come visit us for a while, as her roommate is a nurse in the metro area and she didn’t want to potentially expose us to the coronavirus. The sadness of not being able to see her on top of all that had happened in such a short period of time triggered my natural human “fight or flight” reaction. It was humbling to feel at a total loss over my emotions, but a friend listened carefully to me and was the presence of Jesus to me.
As the pandemic and sheltering in place and now reopening have continued, I’ve learned that despite not being able to receive the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, He is truly present everywhere and in anyone who chooses to share him with another. I also came across the below article that helped me to better understand the many ways the Church teaches that Jesus is present in our lives. How has he been present to you?
Church’s Tradition speaks of four basic forms of God’s Presence
I’ve listened to committed Catholics talking despairingly about how they are being deprived of the presence of Jesus because they no longer have access to the “real presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist in Communion and/or Adoration.
Of course, the Church’s tradition speaks of four basic forms of God’s presence which we have access to in our earthly lives: 1) omnipresence (a “natural” presence of God that requires no response from us at all).
And then there are the “supernatural” presences of God which do require our personal and sustained response and which are capable of unlimited growth and deepening:
2) the “Spiritual Presence of Jesus (an experience of his Divinity);
3) the “real” or Eucharistic presence of Jesus in the fullness of his resurrected and glorified humanity and divinity *only available* in the Eucharistic species; and
4) the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity given to all who are baptized and in a state of grace and nourished primarily by the well-disposed and fruitful reception of Communion and by Adoration or “Eucharistic Worship” outside of Mass.
Here’s a rough, non-exhaustive list of the ways that Jesus’ spiritual presence is available to us in no particular order:
The spiritual presence of Jesus Christ is available through:
1) Personal prayer; intercession (Jesus prays for us, in and through us, and answers our prayers)
2) Communal prayer; intercession (ditto)
3) When two or more are gathered in his name – Christian community
4) Works of mercy, (what we do for others, we do to Christ and Christ performs the works of mercy through his Church)
5) In the Church, the People of God on its journey of subjective redemption and salvation through history
6) In the Church longing for eternal life
7) Jesus dwells in our hearts through faith (Indwelling of Holy Trinity)
8) Jesus instills charity in our hearts through HS
9) He dwells in the Church, his Mystical Body on earth
10) He is present when Church preaches, proclaims the Gospel in Jesus’ name, by his authority, and with his help
11) When Church rules and governs the people of God (governance includes evangelization and calling forth and discerning all the charisms and vocations of the baptized, all mission outward,)
12) Christ is present as “shepherd of shepherds” in bishops
13) As she administers the sacraments other than the Eucharist (channels of his redemptive grace and power)
14) In the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the action of Christ
15) In person of the celebrant
16) In Scripture
17) In poor, sick, imprisoned, suffering
18) When we say Jesus’ name because his name is the only name that contains the Presence of the person named.
19) In the exercise of charisms and vocations to which Christ has called us and for which Christ has graced us
20) In Actual graces; inspirations of Holy Spirit
21) In sanctifying graces
22) In Holy Spirit that Jesus is continually pouring out upon his Church.
There are just loads of ways in which we have access to the spiritual presence of Jesus even under quarantine. Certainly not having direct access to the ‘Real Presence” in the Eucharist is a big loss and I certainly feel it. But the Church teaches that contemplation equals the recognition of *all* the many ways that Jesus is present in our lives!
We have access to a staggering abundance of graced presence heaped upon graced presence and topped with the greatest gift of all – the whole Jesus Christ – in the fullness of his glorified humanity and divinity and saving work in the Eucharist!
We are not alone! Your thoughts? Where are you experiencing the Presence of Jesus most meaningfully right now?
(Shared from Forming Intentional Disciples Forum April 17. 2020, by Sherry Weddell, Catholic author and speaker, and co-founder of the St. Catherine of Siena Institute, Colorado Springs, CO)