As you might know, I’m just a few days shy of completing my Master’s degree. By 7:30PM on Tuesday, there will be nothing left for me to do but attend a few practices and actually graduate. It’s insane to think that graduation is nearly here. In light of the fact that it’s now 11PM on Sunday night and I’ve barely begun a long night of studying, I have just a small thought to offer for the week. Nonetheless, it’s stuck with me all day, and it has made me so much more grateful for the wonderful gift of daily Communion.
This morning, twenty-one grammar school children received Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament for the first time. It was a group of charmers, and on several occasions, they had the priest shocked, the parents laughing, and the teachers shaking their heads (and smiling). Children’s reactions are so genuine- they make no effort to hide what they are thinking or how they really feel. Most of the time it’s cute. Sometimes it’s just downright embarrassing. And on occasion you wonder if you’re really smarter than the seven-year old. I’d venture to say I’m certainly less appreciative of the Eucharist than some of my students.
First Communion Mass is not very different from regular Sunday Mass, except for the twenty-one little girls in white dresses and boys with black suits. There’s no special rites, no extra parts to the Mass. The only major difference is that the homily is geared towards the First Communicants sitting in the first three pews. Our pastor spent a few minutes asking them questions as he gave his homily, and at one point, in typical historian fashion, he was teaching the children a little bit about the history of the sacrament. He talked about his old-fashioned host-maker, with its two “priest” molds and its two “layperson” molds. He talked about a time in the Church when people only very rarely received Jesus in the Eucharist, even when they went to Mass everyday. The homily was engaging, and I was so focused that I almost missed the appalled expression on the face of the little girl sitting in front of me. Almost.
Her mother was sitting just across from me, so I imagine the facial expression was intended for her. However, the movement was so sudden that it caught the attention of several people sitting in the nearby pews. And the moment was priceless.
Why was she appalled? Because she couldn’t understand a time when people didn’t receive Jesus, even when they were allowed to go to Communion. This little girl, who had been anxiously awaiting her First Communion, just couldn’t fathom a time when people didn’t go to Communion. The only scenario that could possibly be worse was if people couldn’t go to Communion- which I’m sure this little girl just couldn’t imagine.
Her reaction was innocent, but it stuck with me. Why was she appalled? Because she had waited so long, and she had wanted to receive Him so badly. The idea of turning down an opportunity to receive Jesus Christ just didn’t make sense to her. Here was a girl who really understood what she was receiving. She wanted to receive Jesus. She wanted God to come live inside her. She wanted the Eucharist. And she just couldn’t imagine a person not wanting these things.
Unfortunately, there are many people who are not aware of the beautiful gift that we’ve been given in the Eucharist, and especially in daily Communion. If this morning’s little girl had understood the severity of the situation, she probably would have cried. I think we would all do well to learn something from our children, who just “get it.” They still have plenty to learn, but they still understand better than we do. They still believe as only children can. They haven’t forgotten the joy of receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Maybe they can help us remember.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!