Homily for First Holy Communion Mass
My young friends, have you ever thought about why you are Christian and Catholic? No doubt it’s partly because of your parents, but as you get older you will need to choose it for yourself, especially when it’s time for your Confirmation.
If someone were to ask me why I am a Christian, the answer would probably be, “Because of the Resurrection” – because of Jesus’ victory over death that we celebrate each Easter. But if I were asked why I am a Catholic Christian, the answer would be, “The Eucharist.” The Eucharist—which you’re about to receive for the first time—is in many ways the central mystery of our faith.
Now, in the Gospel reading, we heard Jesus say that anyone who eats his flesh and drinks his blood will have Eternal Life, and that God will raise them up on the last day. And the crowd didn’t know what to make of this! “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Eat his Body and drink his Blood? First of all, it’s okay to admit how strange that sounds. Later, at the Last Supper, Jesus clarified what he meant. It was during this final meal with his closest friends before he died on the cross that Jesus celebrated the very first Mass. He took some bread, and he said to the Apostles: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is my body which will be given up for you.” And then he took the cup of wine and said: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of my blood.”
Do these words sound familiar? They are the same words that Fr Matteo and I and indeed all priests say when celebrating Mass. At the Last Supper, Jesus made his Apostles the first priests and commanded them to follow his example and celebrate Mass for all believers. That’s why, when you attend Mass today, you hear the priest say the same words that Jesus said 2,000 years ago.
So when we hear Jesus talking about us receiving his Body and Blood, in a real sense it’s Jesus’ way of saying, “This is me. All of me. And I’m giving it to you.” In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us himself as a gift. It’s not just a symbol – it’s really him. After you’ve had communion this morning, you will have Jesus inside of you, and this will make you more like him. It will make you more like God. That’s an amazing thing.
This is why you’re dressed up in your white dresses and your suits and ties like you’re going to a wedding. Because—just like a couple on their wedding day—after today, you will never be the same again. Your relationship with Jesus will never be the same again. Now… it gets serious.
Because the main thing about today isn’t the fancy clothes you’re wearing on the outside – it’s what’s about to happen on the inside.
And it starts on the altar. What’s about to happen here on this altar, is more important than anything that happens anywhere else in the world. It’s more important than what happens at school. It’s more important than what happens in all the office buildings in town. It’s more important than what happens in Parliament or in the White House.
What’s about to happen here, is that the distance between heaven and earth will disappear. God himself is about to come down and make this bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is no ordinary food. It is the food of Heaven. And we get to eat it here and now!
What’s about to happen to us is the closet we can get to Heaven in this life! And here’s the thing – if we can’t see that, then we need to train ourselves to be able to see it. Because it’s true! We’re able to have a little taste of Heaven on earth. So it’s something that’s really worth learning to see.
Part of it is that we need to let ourselves be hungry—so to speak—so that there’s room for Jesus to be able to fill us up. It’s a bit like if you ate a whole bunch of junk food right before dinner, then you wouldn’t have room for the beautiful dinner your Mum or Dad have made for you. So too, if we fill up our souls with everything the world has to offer, we’ll never feel like having what God has to offer. And this would be a tragedy, because just like how what Mum or Dad make for dinner is so much better for us than junk food, so too what God has to offer us is so much better than the things of this world.
My young friends, Jesus knows you. He knows you better than you know yourself. And Jesus loves you. He loves you more than you love yourself. And in the Eucharist which you are about to receive, Jesus gives you his very self to fill up your soul. And if you think about it, this is not only true for you – it is also true for everyone else who receives the Eucharist. As you learn in health class, you are what you eat! By receiving the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ.
So before I finish, I’d like you to take a moment to think about everyone else who will be receiving communion today. Firstly in this church. Where are they from? What’s going on in their lives? How is it that they happen to be here in this church at the same time as you? Think about everyone throughout Perth who will be receiving communion today. Then across Australia. Then around the world. People of all races – people with very different stories. And finally, think of all the saints in heaven, who received communion during their time on earth, and who are with us this very morning.
We are all joined to each other… because we are all joined to Jesus. This is the very meaning of the word “Communion” – a common union with others through our common union with Christ. This is a truly amazing thing, and it is a pure gift from God. So give thanks that you are being given this gift today. Pray that you will learn to appreciate the Eucharist more and more as time goes on.
Today, I welcome you to this truly amazing thing. I welcome you to your First Communion. And I beg you to never take it for granted. Amen.