The children are wiggling their hands and feet. The girls giggle at the boys who are dressed in suits for the first time ever! People in the pews are craning their necks to see. The pageantry of First Communion is about to begin!
This is a precious and meaningful time. Yet, it is only a beginning. It is like taking the first step up a ladder. Why would anyone stay there or step back down?
As a teacher preparing students for this day, I tell them they are becoming tabernacles for Jesus. They will receive Jesus in a way unlike any other. But Jesus doesn’t want to be ignored immediately after this special day.
First Communion is just the beginning. Our understanding of the Eucharist and desire for it should grow over time. We are called to “know, love and serve Him.” It is a relationship that must be developed by constant attention.
Jesus is always with us and we receive His grace in the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation. We can hear His words in the Gospels and we can talk to Him in prayer. But there is nothing like receiving Him as the Bread of Life. There is nothing like becoming a tabernacle.
Yet, too many families see First Communion as the beginning and the end of their obligation for faith formation.
The young people, who are so excited on this day, and feel the glow of love for Jesus, are like delicate new buds pushing up out of the ground of the secular world. Their experience is fragile and tentative. It needs to be nourished by weekly reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist. When parents make a big deal out of First Communion, yet make excuses for not going to Mass on Sundays after that, they send a mixed message.
The message seems to be that “only the first time is important. Then, if you receive Jesus again once a year, that’s enough.” The bud doesn’t open. The flower wilts in the time that lapses between receptions.
Since the Eucharist is necessary for our souls, why would we want to deprive ourselves of this soul food? The longer we go without, the more the soul dries up.
It is so important that our children see a love, respect and hunger for the Eucharist in their parents. Then their curiosity leads them to desire. And desire leads to deeper prayer and understanding.
Tabernacle literally means “temporary dwelling place.” If we are to keep Jesus close to us, we need to invite Him into the tabernacle of our bodies on a weekly basis. And inviting Him into our tabernacle on a daily basis is even better.
Then, the tabernacle will glow with His presence. And the flower of love and purity unfolds in His glorious presence!
Copyright 2014 Judith Costello
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