Tonight we had our initial session with parents whose want our help in preparing their children for First Holy Communion. Here's what I said to them:
Welcome to all of our parents who want us to help you prepare your children for First Holy Communion. You are embarking on one of the things you will be most grateful for when you reach the Pearlie Gates: that you gave Jesus to your children!
Let me put First Holy Communion (and every Holy Communion thereafter) into the right theological context of how we move into spiritual maturity.
Our first step of Christian maturity is to know God as love. This means that God is a personal encounter with us, a relationship that make the child (and then the adult) secure in the unconditional love God has for us. This divine love is even far more significant than parental love.
When a child is raised in a consciousness of the love of God, then that child will grow into a secure adult, a virtuous adult, a fearless adult, and an adult who is not self-absorbed but is someone who will make a great contribution to others all through life.
Our next step in Christian maturity is developing a good conscience so we can tell when we are putting up a hand against the Lord, telling Him to come no closer. This is the step of recognizing we are sinners in need of conversion of heart, and a change in our ways of doing things. This step leads us into realizing how I, specifically I, need a Savior. It’s an honest recognition that without the grace of God I cannot live up to my potential, and that without the grace of God I can make a real mess of things. This is the stage of my being the sinner, and Jesus being the Savior.
Since I am now entering into a deeper relationship with the Savior, I now want to know everything I possibly can about Him. I want to read about Him in the Gospels, I want to spend time with Him in prayer, I want Him so much that I hunger for Him, I yearn for Him, I desire Him, and I cannot keep myself away from Him. It is in this stage that the sacraments take n a power that can only be described as divine. In this stage there is no guesswork in whether or not I attend Sunday Mass because my love for Jesus has grown so much that I cannot live without the Sunday Eucharist. This is the stage of my being the disciple and Jesus being the Master.
The next stage in Christian maturity is my realizing the depth of my relationship with the Lord so that I know Him as my friend and I am His friend. This is a huge leap forward is Christian maturity. This is very different from some syrupy sentimentality where I think “Jesus is my friend” and therefore I can do anything I want. No, this degree of intimacy with the Lord happens only when we see Jesus go to His cross and suffer the Passion for me and for all of us. This is where I begin to think like Jesus, to see things as He sees them, to do what He would do, and to bear others’ burdens as He does. This is where I see Jesus in the poor, the disenfranchised, the rejected people, the sick, the lonely, the addicted people, the very least of my brethren.” This is where I know the cross of Christ so well that I become crucified to the world and the world becomes crucified to me. This is where I become like my Friend.
And there is yet another stage of intimacy with the Lord. This is where I know the Lord as Lover to me the Beloved. This is the stage of my developing such a desire for the Lord that “I do not know which I prefer, to be with the Lord unceasingly, or to be with you for your sake.” This stage has me walking in this life with one foot in heaven. This is when I see things from the perspective of the Lover so well that no pain, no sorrow, nothing can distract me from my goal of life on high with Christ Jesus. This is called the stage of Mystical Union or Mystical Marriage. It is the stage of being utterly in love with the Lord. It is the beginning of heaven, even here on earth. In this stage of Christian maturity Holy Communion is exactly that: union with “the Holy”.
So, dear parents, here you are, starting to prepare your children for entering into the greatest romance they will ever have – if they are carefully nurtured into grasping the meaning of the Eucharist, more and more as the years come by.
Just think of what Holy Communion is: the God of all creation, the Word of God through whom was made everything that was made, became a human being and gave himself utterly for us on the cross. This very same loving Lord of all, comes upon our altar and gives himself into our hands so we may take Him in and begin to taste that Mystical Union we are all called to possess.
Dear parents, nothing else that you do for your children is as important as giving them the Lord, for if I possess everything and have not the Lord, I have nothing at all.