Dear First Communicants (and anyone who has at one time received their First Communion):

“This is the day the Lord has made!

Let us rejoice and be glad.”

This has been a day that I have been waiting for with much anticipation and eagerness. And I can only imag- ine how you all are feeling today. At all school Masses, you sit up in the front pews staring with hunger as the other children form the procession line to receive Com- munion. On Sundays, you walk up with mom and dad and dutifully cross your arms to receive a blessing, but your eyes betray a longing for the host, the Body of Christ.  I have witnessed your growth over the years, your spunk, your vibrant and glowing spirit. I love the fact that I have to enter your classroom (both the day school and PSR) attempting to keep you somewhat quiet (it rarely works) before you explode with questions and comments and anything else that pops into those curious and ever-expanding minds of yours.

This is the first time since I got to Holy Redeemer Parish that we will be celebrating First Communion all together as a class (with a couple of siblings to make it even more special), as well as receiving communion under both species.  It has been a wild ride over the past three and a half years and I couldn’t be happier, nor prouder of all of you.

St. Teresa of Calcutta (you know, Mother Teresa, the saint I met in 1982, even have photographic evidence) once admonished us priests. She said: Celebrate each Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass. Well, I would paraphrase that for all of you: Receive communion as if it was your First Communion (that won’t be difficult today), your last Communion (let’s hope that doesn’t actually happen for a long, long time) and your only Communion.

From this day on, you will be tasked to come to Mass each and every Sunday. This is a difficult discipline, to be sure, but it is the only way I know of to become full disciples of Jesus. Here’s why.

First, that is what God demands from us. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, not one of the Ten Suggestions. Keep Holy the Sabbath. Jesus said it as well when he told his disciples at the Last Supper: Do this in Memory of Me.

But I don’t just want to play the “because I said so” card. Here is why I think the Sunday Obligation is important:

  1. It is how we become family. When I think back at my childhood, my development, my maturity, most of my memories of my family center around our dinner table. I remember the big events: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, for sure. But I also remember the ordinary meals which always began with a monstrously long meal prayer that rivaled the length of our Easter Vigil this year. (joking, forgive me Fr. Gene). But those moments formed me, made gratitude the center of my life, let me know I was part of something bigger than myself, made me feel the love of my parents, my siblings and my God. Regular attendance at Sunday Mass will make you a vital part of our family here at Holy. It will also make gratitude the center of your life, a sure and certain cure of helplessness, anger and despair.  And furthermore, my heart always rejoices when I see you here at Sunday Mass.
  2. It is how we are fed. Over the past few months, I have been dealing with some health issues. I have al- ways exercised – never an issue – but my diet was… problematic. Eating well is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. The same can be said about our spiritual food. Our popular culture feeds us some pretty unhealthy help- ings – that in fact, don’t really help us. When we gather at Mass, we hear the Word of God, a well-prepared hom- ily (hopefully) and we take and eat the Bread of Life. All of this, ideally, will help your live your life in generosity, in hopefulness and in
  3. It is here where we encounter the Living God. Throughout the history of the Church, it was unlaw- ful to go to Mass. I played golf at a course in Ireland (Waterville) whose 13th hole was called the “Mass Hole.” The green was down in a swale that couldn’t be seen from the rest of the course. That is where Catholics used to secretly cele- brate Mass when it was illegal to do so. Many Christians throughout the ages risked punishment, imprisonment and even death to celebrate the Eucharist. Why? Be- cause they knew that this was the event in which they encountered in a real and physical way their God, the Living God. They knew that they needed to gather, to pray, to listen, and to receive in order to truly live their lives of faith. Whenever I feel like Mass is a chore, whenever I feel too tired to care, whenever I would rather do something else, I think about my ancestors in Ireland down in that swale, risking everything, and I don’t feel so sorry for myself anymore.

So, First Communicants (and everyone else) never take for granted what you joyfully receive this day. And know that your family loves you, I love you and most of all, God loves you very much.

Fr. Kevin

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