Praised be Jesus Christ! This weekend our 2nd graders at Christ the King receive Jesus’ Body and Blood for the very first time (next weekend is 1st Communion at Saint John’s), and we are supporting them with our prayers and our love. I read an article recently that was titled, “Remembering First Communion.” It had some great stories, including the following: “I remember my first Communion very well. In those days we had to fast from midnight. And the sisters used to cover the water fountains in school so the kids wouldn’t take a drink by mistake before Mass – they did this to remind you, in case Sister wasn’t looking and you wandered down the hall. Things like that seem funny now, though they were so very, very important to us. You really wanted to do it right.” Our kids still have a beautiful sense of the awe and wonder of receiving Jesus for the first time – something we can all learn from and please God, cultivate in our own reception of Holy Communion. We offer a “Real Presence” talk every year to the parents of our First Communicants in the hope that their faith will be deepened by the mysterious truth of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Each year we reflect a bit on the Gospel of John, chapter 6 – the famous “Bread of Life” discourse that is the foundation for our belief in Jesus’ Real Presence in Holy Communion. And while it is true that many Catholics struggle to believe they are truly receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, there are remarkable reasons behind this teaching. Jesus Himself established the doctrine and instituted it by offering the first Mass at the Last Supper the night before He died. Many miracles of Hosts bleeding have occurred through the centuries, pointing to the reality that this is truly, mysteriously Jesus’ Body and Blood. A miracle in Lanciano, Italy that occurred in the middle of the 8th century was studied under a microscope in the 1970s. Scientists found that the remains of the consecrated Host were actually striated muscle tissue of a human heart. A miracle in Siena in 1730 is still in existence today; the Hosts were stolen from a Tabernacle, then returned, and are now in a glass ciborium (i.e. container). Miraculously, the Hosts have not decomposed in the slightest – Pope Saint John Paul II consumed one in 1980 and claimed that it was truly Christ’s Body. Convincing skeptics about what we believe is generally not possible: “For those with faith, no proof is necessary; for those without faith, no proof is convincing” is the famous line from The Song of Bernadette. Just the same, it’s our duty to give reasons for our hope (1 Peter 3:15) so that people understand that our faith cannot be dismantled by argument. As Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out centuries ago, we may not be able to convincingly prove what we believe about Jesus in the Eucharist, but nor can it be disproven because it is protected by sound reasons. All of this is merely straw if we fail to get down on our knees and worship Our Lord. Theological claims and counter claims are legion in human history; but saints like Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Peter Damian demonstrate the power of love that one receives when receiving Holy Communion with true faith. People who claim they get nothing out of it are usually not open to the graces being given. Many have unconfessed sins or are still living in sin and are not repentant. A proud person cannot receive God’s grace, not because God is a mean cop, but because the person’s heart is hard and resistant to God. Thankfully, our 2nd graders are generally very open to the love God is offering them. Our prayer is that the graces they receive at 1st Communion are cultivated by the ongoing love and practice of the faith that will help them grow closer to God. We pray that the time between our little ones’ first and second Communion is no longer than a week!
May God grant us a true love for His Son, which is shown in how we receive Him in Holy Communion!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin