Tag Archives: First Communion

The Easter Season: a School of Faith

Nicodemus

Nicodemus reminds us that faith doesn’t depend on how sharp our minds are or how many books we’ve read. Faith is God’s gift to us. We are all still in the school of faith.

On Friday of the Second Week of Easter we begin reading from John’s gospel about Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish near the Sea of Galilee. (John 6) There’s a lot of unbelief in the crowd that Jesus feeds, according to John. “Many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him,” . Besides those who radically reject Jesus’ claim to be the bread come down from heaven,  others appear to have little appreciation for this great sign. Commentators suspect this this section of John’s gospel may indicate there were troubles over the Eucharist and over the identity of Jesus in the churches John is writing for.

Most of the gospel readings for the last weeks of the Easter season are taken from the Farewell Discourse in John’s gospel. There too the disciples seem far from perfect. They’re fearful, they seem to understand Jesus so little. He calls them “little children,”  not far removed from the children making their Communion this season.

There are no perfect believers  in the gospels of our Easter season. Plenty of imperfect believers, like us, which tells us that faith is something to pray and struggle for. More importantly, they reveal the goodness of Jesus, who showed the wounds in his hands and his side to Thomas, who never dismissed Nicodemus to the night, who came to table with his disciples and fed them again, who called them “his own” and prayed that they would not fail.

We’re in a school of faith in the Easter season where the Risen Christ speaks to us in signs like water, bread and wine, words that promise a world beyond ours and teach us how to live in our world today.  He is our Teacher and Lord.

The Nones

Charles Taylor in his book “A Secular Age” may have insights into the “Nones”, the  “unaffiliated population”  described in surveys who have left their religious traditions “because they stopped believing in its teachings.” Their numbers are increasing the surveys say.

Some become unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions. Many leave a religion because “they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money.”

It’s interesting to see that “ far fewer say they became unaffiliated because they believe that modern science proves that religion is just superstition.”

Taylor says the theory that religion will disappear as science advances doesn’t hold up because there’s a search for “human fullness” for a “higher world” that doesn’t go away. Surveys indicate that’s the case among the unaffiliated today

But Taylor also recognizes that people find religions difficult today.  In the western world, our secular age is an age of “expressive individualism;” people want reasons to believe and belong. They need religious places that meet them as they are. They’re looking for religious experience.

“Those who believe in the God of Abraham should normally be reminded of how little they know him, how partial is their grasp of him. They have a long way to go…Many believers (the fanatics, but also more than these) rest in the certainty that they have got God right (as against all those heretics and pagans in the outer darkness). They are clutching onto an idol, to use a term familiar to the traditions of the God of Abraham.”  (p.769)

Churches need to engage the world with reasons, not with condemnations.  Belief leads us to the mysterious Unknown, not sharp certainties. Jesus surely kept speaking to Nicodemus many nights. As the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus says, it takes time to believe. We’re slow learners. We pray that on their journey the “Nones” will find him “in the breaking of the bread.”

 

A Community of Believers

The church is a community of believers–that’s the way the Acts of the Apostles, which we’re reading after Easter, describes it. We look so often at church leaders, like Peter and Paul, and we miss the crucial part ordinary believers play. They’re more than passive spectators.

Some time ago visiting a parish, the director of religious education was getting the young people ready for confirmation and first communion. “The parents are the ones who make these things stick,” she said. “If they don’t bring the young people to church; if they don’t think it’s important, neither will they. You can have the best preparation program around, but if parents don’t back it up with their own example, the young people wont be back.”

Families and friends still turn out for First Communions, I notice. Good they do. But in some way the community– families, friends, all of us– have to communicate our belief that sacraments are important signs of the presence of the Risen Christ.

We’re a community of believers.

First Holy Communion

In our parish children are receiving their First Holy Communion these Sundays of the Easter season. They will come into the church together, each one with her or his name printed on their clothes and we will greet each one of them by name at the altar. Their families and relatives will be here.

Later, we will call them to stand around the altar at the Eucharistic prayer and they will be the first to receive Communion. Afterwards, they’ll be joining their families to celebrate this important step in their life of faith.

We call them by name. In baptism, that’s the first thing we ask parents who bring their children to the baptized: “What’s his/her name?” and later we baptize them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

God calls us by name. It’s my name and it stands for me. In baptism we are called by God, who takes us into his hands forever. We are baptized with water, with life, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. We know God’s name: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Baptized as infants, we didn’t speak for ourselves; our parents spoke for us, and they were entrusted to bring us up in this belief: that we are God’s children, God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

At first Holy Communion we speak for ourselves; no one holds us in their arms or speaks for us as they did in baptism. When we receive Jesus in the bread we say “Amen.” I believe he comes to me; I know who he is; He is my Lord and my God who loves me. He gave his life for me and he calls me to eternal life.

Our First Communion should be the beginning of many communions. Jesus wants us to know his name and to know us. That’s what the word “communion” means.