Some like to make the point, all too modern and fashionable!, that “what’s on the inside is more important than what goes on on the outside.” (How many times have we heard that on commercials or in self-help books?)
That is reasonable and probably very true. However, what gets people, what slips out, is also something to the effect of, “…and what goes on on the outside doesn’t really matter,” as if someone’s interior disposition absolutely, positively and definitively somehow cancels, masks, annihilates, overrides or overwrites what happens on the outside. If that isn’t said explicitly, it is usually implied.
Of course, this is ridiculous. What goes on on the outside absolutely matters. Whether it is the “most important thing” is not the point. It is incumbent upon us as humans, usually being civilized creatures, to act and conduct ourselves in a manner commensurate with our inward disposition, within reason. It is natural and good for us to treat the Eucharist in an outwardly reverent manner.
I am sure that the same people who say or imply that it is fine to treat the Eucharist in any which manner–which is exactly the effect of saying, “It’s more important to have a reverent attitude,” because that is besides the point, because since when are reverent attitudes and reverent actions incompatible?–would not treat diamonds in any which manner, or a golden necklace, or a Porsche that someone lends them, or even a rented Motel 8 room.
Besides all that, there is a social value to movements, postures, bows, and other such actions during the liturgy. Even if one is not feeling the awesome majesty of God in the Eucharist, one knows–hopefully–that it is, indeed, Christ, and so one should still conduct oneself with the same reverence as last Sunday or whatever. We don’t say, “Hmm, I’ve had a bad week, I’m not feeling the presence of God particularly well, so I think I’m going to treat the Eucharist less reverently than last weekend.” No, we should do it in a consistently reverent manner because, even if our inward disposition varies, our example to others, especially children, should remain constant.
So this assertion–explicit or implied–that a reverent inward disposition routinely and as a matter of course cancels out any need to have an outwardly reverent manner of composure and action is not valid. I am sure someone would like to chime in and say, “Well, what about Johnny who has Parkinson’s?” Well, Johnny who has Parkinson’s can not be held to the same standards as everybody else because Johnny’s motor skills are probably quite compromised. It’s a bit like biology class where somebody says, “But there’s an exception, see?!” Yes, there are exceptions, but they are not the norm, hence they are exceptions.
I imagine a conversation: “So, we can do what we want on the outside?” “Yes, of course, as long as you love Jesus on the inside!” “Oh, so I can casually stick out my hand and walk off to consume the host?” “Oh, no, of course not!” “But I thought you said we can do what we want?” “Well…”
OP, my point is that what we do on the outside, our outward actions, do matter. They are not the be-all end-all of Catholicism, but they do matter, they serve social roles, ways for us to show some holy virtue or attitude, and they also serve as ways for us to check ourselves when we might be becoming inattentive or irreverent on the inside.
I do not advise becoming a self-appointed Sacrament Police. However, what we do on the outside is important. Just because X is more important than Y does not mean that “Y doesn’t matter because, see, X!”