How to Approach Communion Well

Alex provides some reflections and advice on what to do near the end of Mass when we’re approaching the priest for Holy Communion and receiving Jesus.

Alex provides some reflections and advice on what to do near the end of Mass when we're approaching the priest for Holy Communion and receiving Jesus.
Gazing into the Eucharist, into Love itself (Photo: Marcin Mazur)

Every Catholic at some point in their life will struggle with the way they approach communion. We’ve seen the blank expressions of people walking the line like they’re going up to a Jesus vending machine. We’ve all been those people. Maybe even this past Sunday you were that person. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed myself during the final blessing and thought “Well, the entire Mass just happened, I received the living God into my body, and yet, I just spent the past hour thinking about whether I’m gonna buy a Boost bar or a bag of Tangfastics after Mass.” It’s a good thing God loves me unconditionally!

The way we can fall into a habit of just going through the motions in Mass calls to mind Isaiah 29:13, where the Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” How often is my heart far from the Lord when I am walking up to receive Him? The feeling of being distracted and unfocused poses a trial for us, and to be honest, it is difficult to grasp what we’re walking to. That’s normal. But what can we actively do to be present to the mystery?

Below are a few reflections to help us become more present to what we’re approaching when we go up to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

1. This is real

My greatest enemy in the moments leading up to communion is ‘fantasy.’ I think about conversations that will never happen, things I’m going to do later in the day when Mass is over, what God’s going to do with my life. The overarching theme is that I engage my mind with things that aren’t real. It’s a complete waste of energy. So what a grace it is to stand up and exit the pew and to place my eyes on something that is absolutely real. So real I can touch it. What is in front of my eyes isn’t a thought or a fear or a hope; it’s flesh and blood. In John 6:55, Jesus says “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” The Eucharist isn’t an intangible thought-bubble hanging over my head; this is the God I can see and touch and experience.

Fix your eyes on Jesus as you approach and remember that you are walking towards something that is real.

2. This is love

Who isn’t looking for love? This is the Christian life: to be known and loved and seen. Personally, I mess that up perfectly on a regular basis, or I look for infinite love in the finite and it doesn’t work. We want to find the fullness of love so badly and yet we complain about sitting for an hour in a place that wants to give us that. The Eucharist isn’t an expression of love or an experience of God’s love or a fragment of it. This is love itself. Because 1 John 4:8 tells us that “God is love,” and when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving God through the person of Jesus Christ.

That full and total and complete love that you long for is right there at the end of the aisle. Dwell on that as you make your way in the communion line.

3. This is medicine

I am so rubbish at focusing on the Mass. After countless Sundays of spending the hour trying to quiet my heart of all my worries and anxieties and desires, it’s very easy to get discouraged. We are often our biggest critics, but what better place is there to be with our weak and broken conditioning than before the Healer himself.

The reality is that the Eucharist is medicine for our wounds; it is a supplement for our virtue. When we receive Christ, the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1392 tells us “What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life.” The way that food nurtures our bodies, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament nurtures our souls.

Go to the Sacrament, lay down your failures and weaknesses and believe in the power of the Eucharist to heal you.

4. This is the Beloved

Psalm 84:2: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” This is one I am really longing for. The God that I spend each day speaking to, the God I go to when I am suffering, the God who blesses every moment of my life and constantly works for me is here. This is the Beloved. And I spent most of Mass struggling to stay awake and digest the word of God and I’m feeling really guilty because I come to Mass and each time my thoughts are elsewhere. But the Lord speaks to us and calls us by name. He doesn’t say “Gee, Alex, you’re not really loving me enough.” He says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

When we find ourselves frantic and frenzied by life, we can walk towards Jesus in the Eucharist in confidence that this is someone who loves us beyond our faults. This is someone who wants to give us the rest and peace we desire. This is my Beloved, and I am His. There’s a reason we call it “consummation” when a married couple expresses marital love. When we consume the Eucharist, this is consummation with our God.

The walk you take to receive communion is an approach to the Beloved who loves you.