Forty-nine children made their First Communion this weekend at Christ the King. Unlike 1958 when I made my First Communion at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, all the kids processed in with their parents. Most had a Mom and Dad but kids with only one parent were equally radiant. Families have enough challenges – great to see them so prominently celebrated!
Fr. Dale did his typically fine job of speaking directly with them during the homily. He recalled the childrens’ Baptisms and how the first question parents were asked is “What name do you give your child?” He bridged that with God also calling each of them today, uniquely, personally by their special name. Later, each child heard her or his name called forth inviting them to full communion at the Lord’s Table.
Without explicitly referencing St. Augustine’s frequent exhortation, “Be what you see! Receive what you are – Body of Christ!” Dale eloquently made the same point to the children. In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ (yes, he actually said “into your bellies”) the children were praised for the way they are now commissioned to be Jesus’ real presence in the world today.
We used the regular readings for the Third Sunday of Easter. Rich in their own right, they were freshly poignant in the context of First Communion. In the Acts of the Apostles a recently fear-filled and disloyal Peter was now courageously proclaiming Christ. Given what Dale had said to the kids, isn’t that what all who are called to the Table of the Lord are commissioned to do — give strong voice to our encounter with the Risen One?
The well-worn story of disciples returning home dejected on the road to Emmaus also carried fresh vitality. Previously, my attention has focused almost exclusively on their recognizing the Risen One in the Breaking of the Bread. Yes, a perfect text for First Communion!
But in the context of these families – with beaming grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents in abundance – and Dale’s “sending-forth” of the children, something else hit me with fresh urgency. The dejected disciples turned around. They did not proceed home. They went back to Jerusalem to proclaim what they had experienced. They reconnected with community!
I, perhaps like most, struggle to find a faith community that is truly nurturing and feels like “home.” Like the families who processed in for First Communion, univocal definitions or one-size-fits-all no longer works in our homes or our churches. Yes, we need new and differing models to give full expression to the Body of Christ. As wonderful as St. Cecilia Cathedral was for my family in 1958 that model doesn’t cut it any longer.
But of this I am sure… we are all hungry, Christ calls each of us – every single one of us – uniquely by name, we all have a place with others at the Table, we are collectively sent to be Christ’s real presence for the world’s healing and flourishing, and we cannot do this alone but are continuously called back into the life-giving pulse of community.
Christ is risen! Yes, risen in you and me – or not at all!