We are still in the Easter season, celebrating the presence of the risen Lord over fifty days. We mark this Fifth Sunday of Easter with a special celebration. Eight children will receive Eucharist for the first time, even though they have attended Sunday Mass for several years with their families. Each of these children have shared in special family meals, birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and other important family traditions. These are special celebrations where family members gather, share a meal and tell stories. These stories give those gathered around the table a context, and a history of who they are in connection with others around that table and a wider connection to all those who gather around tables for nourishment, laughter and conversation. Each of us may remember a particular meal, tied with a particular event that is personally meaningful, such as the meal shared before or after announcing an engagement to be married. The meal shared after a funeral, or the birth of a child.
When we gather around the table of the Lord we hear Jesus say to us, “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” This is strong language, a language we don’t use around our tables, but significant language, pointing to a reality we believe. We believe that during the Eucharistic banquet, the simple gifts of bread and wine are changed and transformed into the very life of the Lord, who wants to share His life with us, who is very much a part of our life story. A meal shared is something very tangible, almost being able to touch the mystery that Christ became flesh for us. In this sacred meal we become one with Christ, and Christ becomes one with us for we are the Body of Christ.
We know that Christ is present in those gathered for prayer and worship. He is fully present in the Word proclaimed. In the sacrifice of the Eucharist He is present both in the person of the minister, ‘above all under the species of the Eucharist’, bread and wine changed and transformed into Christ. For in this sacrament Christ is present to us in a unique way, whole and entire, God and man, substantially and permanently. This presence of Christ is called real in the best sense of that word.
We pray that these eight children will come to know Jesus more fully through their reception of the sacrament of Eucharist that they will experience the real love Christ has for them, and how important it is to come to the table each week for nourishment, life, strength and healing. As we discover reverence for Christ in the Eucharist, may we discover new reverence for all other members of the human family, giving respect to all those people we meet. Pray for these young people, their families as we pray for the whole church, every time we gather in faith to become one with Christ. Let us be an example to these children as they are an example to us to be a Eucharistic people.
Father Larry Hendel