Truth vs. feelings
An Anon wrote, “This is going to sound stupid but I'm going to ask because I'm an anon. I take the sacraments and it does not make me feel closer to God or make Jesus real to me. It does not make me feel like I received grace. I have no sense whatsoever that God cares one way or the other whether I show up at Mass. Do I misunderstand what the grace of the sacraments means?” Thanks, Anon, for asking this, and I’m sorry that you feel that way. Two things come to mind with regards to what you wrote, and one may be the cause of the other.
The first thought is what my good friend, Fr. Wells, would say so often: “it’s not about feelings”. He argued well and often that there is a battle in our culture between truth and feelings. Our Lord emphasizes Truth – the truth about Himself, life, and ourselves. He reveals Truth to us, and we are obligated to be obedient to what He reveals in Scripture and Tradition. For example, He reveals the truth about what is morally right and wrong in the Commandments; to live the Truth is to be obedient to the Commandments. Doing what we’re supposed to do, day in and day out, is living the Gospel of Truth.
On the other hand, our culture emphasizes feelings. Its “gospel” is centered on the mantra, “do whatever feels good”. Many people live according to their feelings, and judge their experiences based on feelings alone. An example that is similar to your situation, Anon, is one that I’ve heard many, many times: people don’t “feel anything” when they go to Mass, or they “don’t get anything out of it”. And so, they conclude that there is little or no value in Mass because their feelings tell them that there isn’t.
The danger is that our feelings may be wrong. You write that the Grace of the sacraments doesn’t make you “feel closer to God or make Jesus real to me. It does not make me feel like I received grace”. Just because our feelings are telling us these things doesn’t mean that they are true. The truth is that God’s Grace, especially in the Eucharist, makes us one with Him; we share in his life. The definition of Grace is “a share in divine life”. The whole reason why Jesus came to Earth 2000 years ago was so that we would share in the life of God, in this life and for all eternity.
The truth is that Jesus invites (actually, he commands) you to receive the Eucharist. He says, “Take this, all of you, and eat it… Do this in memory of me”. So, of course, He cares very much whether you show up at Mass. He has an intense desire to be one with you, to have Communion with you. He wants you to experience his life, his love, and his peace. While currently it may not feel like you are receiving his life and love, you are. I ask you to be patient and faithful to Him; He will reveal His loving presence to you, in time.
The second thought is that we can’t forget about or underestimate the role of our Enemy in all of this. I personally believe it is Satan who is putting the thoughts (like the ones you mentioned in your post) into people’s minds very strongly. He wants us to feel these things – that the sacraments have little or no value, Jesus isn’t real, God doesn’t care about me, etc. It’s obvious to me that they are from him who is the “Father of lies”.
How do we blast through these lies, especially if they are frequently intruding on our minds? We continue to be faithful to Christ. It is easier said than done, but it is what we need to do.
You ask about missing the point of the grace of the sacraments. One of the main points to consider is that we need God’s Grace regularly to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12) against Satan and temptation. We can’t do this on our own. Another main point is that we have to be open to Grace. I encourage you and any others who are struggling with growing in Grace to ask God to open your heart and mind to His Grace. Say a daily prayer like, “Lord, open me to your Grace”. I promise you that, ultimately, He will reveal Himself to you, and you will experience his love, peace, and joy.