Following is my First Holy Communion homily from yesterday.]
First Holy Communion
Today our children will receive their First Holy Communion. The Lord Jesus Christ will come to them in his full body, blood, soul, and divinity, drawing them into himself unto life everlasting. He will give them a foretaste of the eternal banquet of heaven, seating them at his table and feeding them with His own self.
So it was for the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, this mysterious story told only in the Gospel of Luke: they sit at table with God, who feeds them with his own body and blood. Two men are leaving Jerusalem, utterly sad, disappointed, and confused. “We had hoped this Jesus would save us, but our own leaders crucified him. Our own people—our own government—destroyed all our hopes.” They were leaving Jerusalem, the Holy City, to return to their former way of life. They had given up on God because they thought God had given up on them. Then He sidles up to them on the road…. We might walk away from Him, but he will not walk away from us. Jesus opens their minds to the Scriptures and their hearts begin to burn. “Did you not know that the Messiah had to suffer?” Here in a world gone wrong (a world disabled by original sin), there is no love without suffering. As St. Therese said, we were born to suffer, because we were born to love. “Stay with us,” they beg him, “for night is almost upon us.” He does stay with them for dinner, and as he takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. They suddenly recognize him, and he vanishes from their sight, but they no longer miss Him. They don’t need to see him with their eyes because they have the Sacred Eucharist, the Holy Bread that is his body, blood, soul, and divinity. They rush back to Jerusalem, to the Holy City, to begin their lifelong apostolate of spreading the faith.
The story of Emmaus is the story of the Mass. In the first part of the Mass (the Liturgy of the Word) Jesus opens our hearts through the Scriptures, and in the second part (the liturgy of the Eucharist) we recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Word and Sacrament. These are the twin engines that power our faith and hope of eternal life. These are the two gifts these children, and all of us, receive today. Never miss a Mass, dear people. Never miss a Mass.
Had to Suffer
Finally, Jesus tells us that the Messiah had to suffer. Here below, there is no love, no loyalty, no commitment without suffering. No pain no gain. Our faith is built on sacrifice—the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and our own sacrifices united with His. The Mass is essentially a sacrifice, because it is the highest expression of love. The Mass is not just a happy meal, a gathering of friends, a party with balloons and dancing. It is a meal, yes, but a sacred banquet of disciples, where the host feeds his guests with his own body. The Mass is a sacrificial meal, which is why everything in the Mass should look different from everyday life. The way the priest and servers dress for Mass--the way we all dress--should be distinct from how we dress for the beach, for work, or relaxing at home. The inside of the church—the architecture, the windows, the paintings, the furniture—should look sacred because it communicates the sacred of God. The books, the vessels, the very bread and wine should be different than what we buy at Target or Safeway, because they bear the eternal sacrifice of God.
You receive your first holy communion at Star of the Sea today, dear children. May it not be your last communion. Never miss a Sunday Mass, if you can possibly help it. Make the sacrifice to come to Mass. Make the sacrifice to come also to Eucharistic adoration. It is not easy to be faithful to the Mass every week for the rest of your lives. Nor is it easy to be faithful to prayer, especially prayer in our Eucharistic chapel. But God will help us. Pray to Our Lady too, that we will offer our sacrifice to Jesus in deep love, so that we can properly receive his deep loving sacrifice.