…we may be what we receive…
St. Augustine teaches us that when we receive the Eucharist, as many children are receiving it (Him) for the first time this weekend, we ought to be prepared to become “what we receive”. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ we are transformed, even as the species of bread and wine are digested we are “digested into his body and turned into his members….” Augustine speaks of the Mystical Body of Christ that is united by one common Eucharist.
The children who are receiving First Communion are becoming further incorporated into the Body of Christ [‘Incorporation’ comes from the Latin ‘incorporare’, that is to unite in one body]. There are three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation. The Archdiocese of Seattle offers Confirmation to 16 yr olds to complete their initiation into the Church. But that does not stop a child from living fully in the grace of God between the time of First Communion and Confirmation. It is up to the parents to form the children in the faith during this time, with weekly Mass, daily prayer and a moral life.
There is another meaning to becoming what we receive that is more individual. While we are a body with other Christians, we are each a unique expression of the image of God, the Imago Dei. As Christians we are not just incorporated into a Body of other people, we are at the same time ‘incorporated’ into the inner life of the Holy Trinity as ‘sons (& daughters) in the Son’. This makes us and calls us to be Christlike. Our Gospel this weekend summarizes this call in Jesus’ new commandment, “Love one another.”
Love One Another
What a beautiful command to focus our attention on. Appropriately, it falls on the weekend we have chosen for First Communion. The greatest gift that parents can give their child is Jesus Christ. He promised us to be with us always and that if we receive His Body and drink His Blood we “…live forever”, we will have “eternal life”, and we will remain in Him and He in us. (John 6:54-58) What greater gift can you give? You have given your child physical life by God’s grace, now you are giving them the grace to live forever. May God bless you!
This Eucharist is also the answer to how we are going to love one another. We try and fail. On our own it is impossible, but with Jesus’ presence living within us, all things are possible. We can overcome faults, we can forgive those who have harmed us, and we can intercede for the needs of our world. Christ can do all things and we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us with this spiritual food.
For parents bringing your children for First Communion, I encourage you to consider carefully their Second Communion. Too many children don’t come back to church after their First Communion. And so, sadly, they walk in objective mortal sin according to their parents’ example. They are taught that Church (and Communion) is an optional thing: we go when we feel like it, when it is convenient. All too soon, relationship with God follows the same course. He becomes a spiritual pop machine that we go to when we need something and kick the machine when things don’t go our way. Children are perceptive and learn this from their parents.
Why not put God first? He made all of us His children and we owe everything to Him. I don’t say this to create a guilt trip, but to teach the truth. Neglecting Mass is to do so at the risk of your eternal soul. To set that example for your children makes you culpable for their failure to attend Church and grow in the faith. For me not to tell you that, would be to neglect my own duty (as ‘father’ to spiritual children) to inform you of the truth. I believe I do it out of love without any judgment in my heart. I hope this class of children and parents is different. It is a new day. Returning to Our Lord’s commandment to “love one another”, I can only ask you to consider what love is on a week to week basis in relation to the Eucharist. Is it love (for yourself, your neighbor, or God) to not have Him living in your heart?
So the Eucharist is our daily bread;
but we should receive it in such a way that our minds and not just our bellies find refreshment.
You see, the special property to be understood in it is unity,
so that by being digested into his body and turned into his members
we may be what we receive. Then it will really be our daily bread.
(Augustine, Sermon 57, 7)
- ► 2011 (50)