“Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you have no life within you.” (John 6:53)
I walked into church this morning to see the vestibule filled with children getting ready to celebrate their First Communion. The girls were in white with frothy veils pouring down from their crowned heads. The boys were handsome in their dapper suits. Some of the children were glowing with happiness. Others looked slightly nervous. All were uncharacteristically quiet for children their age.
During the processional the children filed into the pews in neat rows. A friend of mine and mother of five whispered in my ear, “This is one of my favorite Sundays. It always make me cry to see kids making their First Communion even when I don’t have a child up there.”
I nodded in agreement. I was alone at Mass today because of two very runny noses and while it was nice to not have the distractions of an antsy baby and preschooler, I wished my family were with me to witness these little lambs shuffle forward with pious hands and open mouths and open hearts eager to receive Christ.
When it came time for me to receive Communion, I had to swallow back the ever-growing lump in my throat. Watching those children and being helpless in blocking thoughts of my own kids celebrating this blessed sacrament, renewed my belief in the power of the Eucharist. I didn’t even realize I needed a reminder of why it’s so important to participate in the Eucharist. (Isn’t that funny how God works sometimes, giving us these subtle pokes and prods to wake us up when we didn’t even think we were snoozing on the job of being a faithful follower?)
Although I’ve always felt overwhelmingly proud to be Catholic and believed the Eucharist is our greatest gift, like so many gifts in life, I sometimes take it for granted. I don’t make an effort to go to daily Mass as much as I should. Once at Mass, my mind wanders. I’m trying to discreetly nurse a baby or keep a preschooler from fiddling with the kneelers. The consecration whizzes by me and I suddenly find myself approaching a Eucharistic minister and focusing on what I’m about to receive for the very first time. Once I’m back to my spot in the pew, I too often say a rushed prayer of thanksgiving before stopping the baby from nose-diving out of my arms or cleaning up the detritus little children always seem to leave in their wake.
Yet, on this memorable day for these young children, the Eucharist was the spotlight, the source and the summit of their entire Mass experience. That’s what it should be for me as well. I could take it even a step further and say receiving the Eucharist should be the source and summit of my entire Christian experience. It’s what gives me strength; it’s what nourishes my soul and gives me a taste of Christ.
As child after child went forward, my friend again whispered in my ear. “Just think. Five years from now it will be Madeline up there in a mini wedding dress.”
Five years. That will be here before I know it. In the meantime, with God’s grace I pray I can show her and all my children by my love and my devotion to Christ, his sacrifice, and the breaking of the bread, that the Eucharist is so much more than a ritual, a wafer on your tongue – it is the Bread of Life and something I cannot live without.