The life of the parish is just like the life of a family. We rejoice when babies are born and we grieve when someone passes on. Every milestone our children cross becomes an occasion to gather together and celebrate. For our parish community the high points of our collective life are the celebrations of the sacraments. These two weekends almost 220 children will make their First Holy Communion and the family of the parish will come together to celebrate our oneness. Every one of these liturgies is joyful and gives us hope that the Church of God will continue to flourish in this corner of the Lord’s garden.
It is always my privilege to thank many, many individuals. First of all, I want to thank our DRE, Ms Anna Mae Parkhill, who directs one of the largest and one of the best religious education programs in the archdiocese. Our children are well prepared to receive Jesus and I know that she and her many catechists and teachers have invested endless hours to prepare our children. Next, our thanks go to our principal, Mrs Lorelei Bobroff, and her teachers who pass on the faith to our St Paul students. Mrs Bobroff ensures that our Catholic school fosters its Catholic identity particularly by insisting on the religious formation of our children. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to our volunteer catechists who give of their precious time for this delicate ministry.
My thanks go in a special way to our parents who are the first teachers of the faith to their children. I would like to encourage the parents to continue bringing their children to Sunday Mass now that they have completed another step in their Christian initiation. Just as our bodies need daily nourishment, our spirits need to be fed with the Body and Blood of the Lord on a regular basis. Finally, I want to thank our dear children who are taking this big step in their faith life. I want to say to our First Holy Communicants: “Dear children, please remember that Jesus who has come into your hearts wants to be your best friend. Keep him close to you always!”
The First Holy Communion of our parish children is also an occasion for all of us to think of the day we received the Lord for the first time. I would like to share with you what I tell the children during the First Holy Communion Masses that I preside over. I would like to leave the same three words with you.
First, believe. The Eucharist does not make sense without faith. It is faith that changes everything. As the great St Thomas Aquinas wrote in the beautiful hymn, Pange Lingua: “Faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble sense fail.” The Catholic Church down the centuries has always taught that the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is not a symbol; it is not an allegory. That is why when we receive the Eucharist, we say, “Amen!” We submit in utter belief. That is why we fast from food and drink (except water) for at least an hour before receiving Holy Communion. Do all Catholics believe fully the mystery of the Eucharist?
Second, become. The teaching of the Church has told us that Christ does not become part of us. We become part of Christ. Our hope and prayer is that gradually we will be transformed into Christ. This thought makes me deeply aware of my own failure to become more and more like Christ. How many times have I received Communion in my life? How many Masses have I celebrated over the last 28 years? And yet, I have so far to go to become more and more like the Lord.
Third, love. Just last Sunday we heard Jesus say to His disciples: “By this they shall know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The mark of the true Christian is Christ-like love. The reception of Holy Communion should make this mark shine out even more. In one of his sermons, St John Chrysostom chides his Christians because they did not love as they should: “You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother… You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food with someone judged worthy to take part in this meal… God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful.” May every communion we receive make us more ready to love our brothers and sisters!
Let us continue to hold our First Communicants in prayer. May their example revive our faith and rekindle our love! St Maximilian Kolbe, who laid down his life to save his brother, gives us memorable words to ponder: “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” Let us grow in our gratitude and appreciation for this great sacrament.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...