First Holy Communion Mass, 11:00 a.m.
There is a very funny automobile commercial running on the television. The commercial begins with a man about to get in his car to drive to work; the man’s young son is playing in a toy car. The dad jokingly offers his car keys to the boy, and says, “Hey pal, you ready?” The little boy imagines what it would be like to drive a real car.
At first the boy imagines how cool it would be to drive past his friends in his own car; he would look very grown up. Then, he thinks of the kinds of things his dad deals with on a daily basis. He imagines getting stuck in traffic, getting a parking ticket and spending his entire day running frustrating errands. At the end of the commercial, the boy refused to take his dad’s car keys; he decided to remain in the comfort of his own toy car.
For a long time those of you who will receive your First Holy Communion today have been watching your parents go to communion on Sundays, but you’ve been unable to participate. If you have older brothers or sisters, you’ve watched them receive communion, while you were not invited to do so. In a sense, you are now “big kids,” you are invited today to receive Holy Communion for the very first time.
You might feel like the boy in the car commercial. He knew he would look good driving down the street in a real car; he knew he would look very grown up. His friends would envy his newly found freedom. Freedom, however, always entails responsibility. The young would-be driver gave serious thought to the responsibility associated with car ownership. He knew he’d have to deal with the challenges of heavy traffic. He knew he’d have to pay attention to parking rules. He knew he’d be asked to do shopping, banking and other errands for the family. In the end, he decided he wasn’t ready for the responsibility.
The reception of Holy Communion brings its own set of responsibilities. You saw some of those responsibilities first-hand during your religious education classes this year. Do you remember the Gospel story about Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. When Jesus saw him, Zacchaeus invited Jesus to dinner at his house. Receiving Holy Communion will make you very much like Zacchaeus; when you receive Communion you welcome Jesus into your heart, and carry the presence of Jesus with you throughout the day.
Do you remember the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan? The Good Samaritan found a man who had been robbed, beaten and left for dead. The Good Samaritan took care of the man, and paid for his medical expenses. When you receive Holy Communion you promise to be like the Good Samaritan: to go out of your way to care for those in need.
Do you remember your First Reconciliation? The Sacrament of Reconciliation forgives sins, and makes us responsible to forgive one another. When you receive Holy Communion you are accepting the responsibility of being like Jesus who forgave even those who betrayed and crucified him.
I mentioned the car commercial to you because, at this point, you might feel like the boy in the commercial who decided he wasn’t ready for grown-up responsibility. You might be thinking that to be a representative of Jesus to the whole world, to care for those in need and to forgive as Jesus forgave might be too much responsibility. If you’re having those kind of thoughts I will tell you how to make that responsibility a blessing rather than the burden that the young driver imagined a car to be.
Your life is very much like the cars in the commercial. Both the toy car and the real car could have been put to many uses. They could have been used to store unused household items. They could have been used as housing for pets. They could have been used as billboards along a roadway. None of those uses, however, are the real purpose of a car. The toy car was made in order to be played with; the real car was made in order to provide transportation. It’s really a waste of effort and resources to use them for reasons other than the reason for which they are made.
The same is true of your life. There are many things you can do with your time, attention and energies, but there is only one purpose for a human life: to love God and others. A person who chooses not to love God and others is like a toy that no one plays with or a car that no one drives; they never find out who they are or who they were meant to be.
The Eucharist is food for our journey through life; it is a source of spiritual strength. It teaches us who we are, and directs our efforts to achieve the goal of all human life: love of God and neighbor. In a few moments I’m going to ask you to renew your Baptismal promises: to promise again to love God, to believe in Jesus and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Baptism and Eucharist make us witnesses to the resurrection (Luke 24:48), and bring us the peace that Jesus offered to his first disciples. (Luke 24:36)
When you come forward to receive your First Holy Communion you are going to reinforce your Baptismal promises of faith when you hold out your hand to receive the Body of Christ. The gesture we use to receive Holy Communion is similar to a handshake. A handshake is a sign of friendship and trust; when you receive Holy Communion you are promising your love and trust to God. I’d like you to keep that in mind when you come forward for your First Holy Communion; your open hand is your promise to receive the presence of Jesus and to give God and neighbor the trust they deserve.