Our granddaughter Anna will make her First Communion on Sunday. This is a big deal for Catholic families. It’s a coming-of-age in a young person’s spiritual life. A very young person. Anna is just eight years old and is truly a holy innocent. Her world is full of rainbows and butterflies. She ALWAYS sees the good in everyone and she is absolutely astounded when someone is deliberately unkind. She is a good girl. Actually, she is more than just a good girl, she is a perfect little girl. Smart, sweet, loving, kind and full of joy.
As Catholics we believe that we receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Anna has prepared with her class and prayed with her family and now the time has come. She may not feel much different afterwards but I suspect she will recognize that God has blessed her in a special way on her First Communion day. Anna will be changed.
And the rest of us? We will all be blessed on her First Communion day. There will be a party with extended family and friends after the mass but the real celebration will take place as she walks up that aisle to receive the Eucharist for the first time. But that’s not enough, we must receive and believe, too. We become changed.
We have a big word in Catholicism – transubstantiation. It means that by consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. Sounds a little heady but the idea is simple. We consume Christ and we are changed. We receive the Christ who makes us one with himself and with one another. Not alone, but in community, we become the Body of Christ. The words the priest says during the consecration is only part of it. Not until the Eucharist is shared with the congregation does transubstantiation truly take place.
Eucharist is the great equalizer. Sinners and saints. Rich and poor. Young and old. We all come to the altar. We receive and we are changed. We become Christ to one another.
I know that this Sunday will be a special day for Anna. My prayer is that every Sunday after this one will also be special for her as she becomes part of the Body of Christ. She is already an example of God’s overwhelming love for us. And my blessings continue…
He broke the bread and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24-25