Seven young members of our parish will receive their First Holy Communion at Mass this morning. It’s an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the reason we celebrate the Eucharist weekly and on the place that Eucharist has in our lives.
Students, do you remember what I said about promises when you were here last Saturday for your First Communion retreat? I asked if you had ever made any important promises to your parents. I also asked if your parents had ever made any important promises to you.
One of you said that you had made a promise never to disobey your parents. A few of you said your parents had made promises of ice cream if you got good grades this year in school. Then, I asked what it would be like if you didn’t fulfill your promises to your parents, or if they didn’t fulfill their promises to you.
If you failed to keep your promises, or if your parents failed to keep theirs, it would make any subsequent promises seem untrustworthy. Promises don’t mean anything unless we fulfill them. Making a promise is a serious thing because promises deserve to be kept.
Last Saturday I spoke to you about the promises of Baptism. In Baptism we made a promise to be faithful to God, and God made a promise to be faithful to us. In our weekly celebration of Eucharist we are reminded of those promises, and given the strength to keep them.
The Church’s celebration of Eucharist began at the Last Supper. Jesus gathered his disciples for a Passover meal on the night before he was to be crucified. Jesus celebrated that Passover meal, his Last Supper, in order to teach his disciples that his death was not the end of his ministry, but the completion of his mission from God. Because of Jesus’ obedience to God, obedience that led to his death, we now enjoy the New Covenant in Baptism.
Our weekly celebration of the Eucharist is a reminder of the promises we exchanged with God at Baptism. I’m sure none of you remember your Baptism; you were infants at the time. However, as I told you last week, we have the opportunity every year on Easter to renew our baptismal vows. You will renew your baptismal vows once more, in just a few minutes, as part of your celebration of First Holy Communion.
I mentioned earlier that the Eucharist gives us strength to keep our promises to God. This is so because, during Mass, the bread and wine we offer become the body and blood of Jesus. I’ll explain how this happens.
I have in my hand a rock painted blue and green. To everyone else in the world, this rock is worthless. To me, it’s priceless. It was a birthday gift to me a few years ago. It was made by the son of some friends of mine; he was three years old at the time.
When my friends’ son painted this rock as a birthday gift for me, it ceased to be just a rock, and became a sign of the presence of my friends and their family. The intention to make, and give, a gift caused a permanent change in that rock. That permanent change is perceptible only because of the long relationship I have with those friends of mine. There is a similar, though not identical, permanent change that happens to the bread and wine we offer at Mass.
When we pray together at Mass, bread and wine cease to be just bread and wine, and become the real presence of Jesus who left us this memorial of his death. The appearance of bread and wine doesn’t change, but their value to us changes forever. That value is something that can be grasped only by our faith; for that reason, we pray with our fellow believers. The permanent change in those sacramental elements of bread and wine is perceptible to us only because of our faith relationship to Jesus.
In Eucharist, we receive Jesus’ gift of himself. Eucharist is the sacramental presence of the crucifixion of Jesus and the sacramental presence of his resurrection. Because it is the real presence of Jesus, it gives us strength to be faithful to the promises we exchanged with God at our Baptism.
Baptismal promises last our whole lives. In order that we don’t forget our promises, or grow tired of remaining faithful to God, we celebrate Eucharist every Sunday; it is the source of strength for our faith. After we pray the Eucharistic Prayer during this Mass, the bread and wine that you will bring to the Altar will become the presence of Jesus for this whole congregation. We expect God to be faithful to God’s promises, and God expects us to be faithful to our promises.
Until the Lord returns, we do this in memory of Him, the One who saves us from our sins. All Saints parish is proud and blessed to have you join us at the table of the Lord’s Supper and in the keeping of our promises of Baptism.