1 Jun 2008
“‘Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who builds his house on rock.’” (Matt. 7:24) In the name …
Today Joel Farrick, Clayton Kocot, Jordan Lashway, Hailey Orloski, Tristen Orloski and Erin Tudryn will receive their First Holy Communion. First is obvious. They’ve never come forward before today and received the Eucharist. Some of them have come close at times because the priest is absentminded, but today is their first. They’ve approached the sanctuary and received a blessing while the others around them have received the consecrated host and wine. But today, after nine months of catechism, they are ready to receive the Eucharist for the first time.
Holy is also something pretty clear. When we met for the first time in September I gave each of them an unconsecrated host to taste and eat. I think at least by now they realize the difference from that being just flour and water and what they are going to be receiving today as holy. Yesterday they performed their first Penance. The idea behind Confession is to remove any sins we may have committed so that when the holy presence of Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist it will be received into a properly prepared spiritual home. And likewise, today the regular Sunday morning routine of these six young people has changed – I hope. Before, they could get up, eat and leave the house for church. This morning in order to receive the Eucharist they were asked to fast for two hours before coming here, which implies an earlier alarm clock. This is so that the bread and the wine made holy by consecration aren’t necessarily mixing around in our stomachs with Cheerios and toast. And as they grow older they can learn to better appreciate the fast as a lesson that the soul craves spiritual food as much as the fasting body craves physical food. These preparations are to help us keep in mind that what will happen here today as we approach the altar is holy, is of God, is special and brings us closer to Jesus who is the very definition of all that is holy.
Communion I imagine, however, is a little bit harder to describe. Only one of these young people has hit a double-digit age, and that was only a few months ago. And yet we’re asking them to appreciate Communion, the real, sacramental presence of Jesus Christ in something as ordinary as bread and wine. This concept of Communion has been one of Christianity’s most divisive topics because it is so complicated. Yet we’re asking these young people to process what it means when Jesus says, “This is my body,” and again, “This is my blood.” Somehow the consecrated host and consecrated wine convey the real presence of the heavenly Jesus, and this is an idea so complex that even our Mass must simply refer to it as a “mystery of faith.” We don’t know how it takes place, we don’t know exactly when it takes place, all we believe is that it does take place. And yet we ask these young people today to process what Communion means.
So what does it mean? The word communion in general means to share something together, and through that sharing people come together. It’s like the six of you. You six are all brothers and sisters right (Tristen & Hailey)? All right, well how many of you are the oldest brother or sister in your family (Clayton, Tristen, Erin)? How many the youngest (Joel, Jordan, Hailey)? Well, you’re all neighbours right (Erin & Jordan)? You must at least live in the same town (Deerfield, Conway, Hadley)? Well you all at least have the same interests? You all play rec baseball right (Clayton & Joel)? You all dance (Jordan)? You all serve at the altar (Jordan & Erin)? O.K., how many of you live in a log cabin (Clayton)? But I know all six of you wish you could go through another year of catechism with Fr. Randy.
There is nothing in the things we just mentioned that the six of you share in common, that hold you together in communion with each other, but in a little while all of that is going to change. St. Paul once said a long time ago that when we share in the one Holy Communion of the one Jesus Christ, that because of that one bread and one Jesus we become one with each other. (1 Cor. 10:17) What that means is that when you come forward to receive Communion you have a special bond in Jesus with all of these other people here who will receive Communion with you, and in truth, you have a special bond with everyone everywhere who shares in Holy Communion because it’s all one.
There’s maybe 100, 150 separate hosts on the altar and in the tabernacle. That doesn’t mean that there are 150 little parts of Jesus that you put together to make one whole Jesus. We don’t carve Him up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Each one of those hosts is the mystical presence of Jesus in His entirety. There is only one Holy Communion and we all share in it and come together in it. You and all of us will each receive a separate host, but in truth they are all the one Jesus. That’s the Communion of church. That’s what we all share in when we come together at Mass. This is why being here is so important. We are one people called together by God in Holy Communion with each other through our Holy Communion in Christ. This is what Communion means.
But like it was said in today’s Gospel: knowing is only one part of faith, the other part is doing. It is now up to you and your families to make it to monthly Confession, to keep the two hour fast, and to be here at Mass to receive Holy Communion. In this way you build your spiritual house on the solid foundation of rock. You’re strong in the faith. The Holy Communion received regularly feeds your soul and nourishes your spirit. It keeps you close to Christ and to church. A new stage of your journey as believers begins today. May your First Holy Communion be special, and may all of your following Communions be just as special. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo