May 5, 2018, First Holy Communion
Fr. Philip Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish
On Thursday, I had a chance to visit with the second graders at Mater Dei Catholic School. Several of the students who belong to other parishes had already made their first holy communion a week or so before. Most of the students are receiving First Holy Communion here today or at St. Rose later this afternoon. I asked them a few questions and gave them an opportunity to ask me whatever questions they had in order to put them at ease for today. I have to say, parents, based on their answers to my questions, these children have been very well prepared for today. They answered correctly all the questions I asked about the sacrament. “What is it that we celebrate at the Mass?” “We celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus” was one answer. “We celebrate his victory over sin and death” was another response. “We celebrate that Jesus gives us his body and blood.” “We celebrate what Jesus did at the Last Supper.” I was impressed. Then I asked, “What happens when the priest takes the bread and the wine, calls down the Holy Spirit, and says the same words over the bread and wine that Jesus said at the Last Supper?” All the hands went up. “The bread and the wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.” Yes. Jesus gives us his body and blood. But it is not just a “thing” that he gives us, but he gives us himself. That is why we call it “Holy Communion” because when we receive his Body and Blood, we receive Jesus – we have communion with Jesus who is holy. He gives us his life, and in receiving him, we are strengthened in the new life that we were given in our baptism. We are made more and more like him. We become what we receive.
Then I asked them a question for which there is no “right” answer. “Boys and girls, you’ve been preparing for this day for a long time. You’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. What are you going to say to Jesus when you meet him on Saturday?” One after another, each student began his or her response with “Thank you, Jesus.” “Thank you for coming to me in Holy Communion.” “Thank you for giving me your Body and Blood.” “Thank you for being my Savior.” These young people recognize that what they are about to receive is a gift. For we say, “thank you” when someone gives us a gift. A gift is not something one has earned or deserves. They also recognize that Holy Communion is about meeting Jesus and entering into a conversation – prayer – with Him. We come to Mass primarily to give thanks. Eucharist means “thanksgiving”. We are so thankful that Jesus loves us so much that he suffered and died for us and wants to share his life with us to save us from our sins and pick us up in our weakness. Through Holy Communion, we are united to God’s plan. Jesus says to us, “you belong to me.” “You are mine.” We share in his mission. We have been chosen. We have been given a task. What unites us is not our feeling or understanding but this fact that we’ve been chosen, despite our littleness, to be instruments in God’s plan. And through Holy Communion, Jesus gives us the grace to fulfill our mission. We are never alone. “I am with you always,” He says. Jesus keeps this promise through the sacraments, especially Holy Communion.
Thursday, after visiting with the 2nd grade, I had a Communion Call. I brought Holy Communion to an elderly woman who was pretty much confined to her home. Her name is Margaret. Margaret is over 100 years old. (She’ll be 101 in November). She has been a parishioner of St. Stanislaus for 91 years. I was telling her about visiting with the children and that we would be celebrating First Holy Communion on Saturday. I asked her, “Margaret, do you remember your First Holy Communion?” “O yes, Father, like it was yesterday.” (This was about 92 years ago). Then I asked, “Margaret, what advice do you have for the children who are going to receive First Communion.” “I would tell them to live what they receive. Respond to the gift that Jesus gives you. And pray. And if you don’t get what you want, or you are confused or uncertain, ask for the Holy Spirit to come. If you don’t get what you want, it means that God has something better for you than you can imagine. You just have to wait and to pray.” Life becomes exciting when we look at things in this way. And I have to tell you, Margaret is proof that God changes us and gives us his life in the sacrament. At 100, she is still happy and thankful. She is waiting for the Lord with joy.
We might not always remember the right answers from the catechism. We might be distracted or not able to express clearly what is in our hearts or we might not have the same feeling of excitement and happiness that we have today when we come to Mass, but we can always come to Mass thinking of Him and asking for Him, and talking to Jesus about what is going on in our life. Just coming to Him, coming freely into his presence, expresses our need and our confidence in our belonging to him and in his plan for our lives. God bless our First Communicants and their families. May you live what you celebrate today. And may the Lord who has begun this good work in you, bring it to completion.