Easter, 2nd Sunday. Last week we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus. This week we are celebrating First Communion. Can you see the connection? Let me explain the story of Jesus a little bit and I think you will begin to see it. Remember how Jesus called ordinary people to be his special Disciples. He told them that he would have to suffer and die, but not to be afraid because he would rise again. Before he left them, he gave them a special gift. He took bread and said, "Take this all of you and eat it, this is my body." Then he took wine and said, "Take this all of you and drink of it, for this is my blood." He told them to do this in memory of Him. Then it happened: bad people caught him and nailed him to the cross and killed him and buried him.
That was on Good Friday. But some of his friends came to the tomb on Easter Sunday and what did they find? The stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. He had risen from the dead! Two were walking on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus appeared to them. They ran back and told the other Disciples. While they were speaking Jesus appeared and said, "Peace be with you." It was a great day and everyone was happy. Except one person: Thomas was not there with the other Disciples, and he missed seeing Jesus. For a whole week he doubted the Resurrection and thought his friends had gone crazy. The next week he was with the Disciples and saw Jesus himself and believed.
Sometimes we put ourselves in the position of Thomas. We get busy with sports or school or sleeping, and we don't join the other Disciples in church on Sunday. Just like Thomas, we miss out on Jesus. Some people avoid church all together. They tell me: I don't get much out of church. I pray better on the golf course, or in the tree stand, or in the fishing boat. That's great. I pray in my tree stand too, and I think that praying is probably the best thing you can do while golfing. Better than those other things golfers say. But if you're only coming to church to GET something, you're coming for the wrong reason. If you went to a birthday party because you were hoping to get something, you would be disappointed. Sunday is a celebration of Jesus' resurrection and we should come to GIVE. We give thanks to God for being so generous and wonderful, we give him Praise by singing. Yes, he loves to hear your voice. And we give him our love by giving him our heart. At a birthday party, we come to give and we get so much in return. The same happens at church. We give our hearts, and Jesus gives us His heart. That's what the Eucharist really is, the body and blood, the Heart of Jesus. What an amazing gift!
But how do we know it's really the body and blood of Jesus? Thomas wasn't the only one to doubt. Everyone one of us at some time have probably doubted. You tried the bread and the wine before when we practiced, but they weren't blessed, so they weren't really the body and blood of Jesus. Now today they will be. Do you think they will taste different? Smell different? Look different? No. They look, taste, and smell exactly the same. Then how do we know it's really Jesus? First, we know because he told us. He said, "This is my Body", "This is my Blood." Jesus doesn't lie, so we can believe he was telling the truth.
Second, God gives us little clues to help us. Sometimes, he lets the miracle leak through.
In 1263 a German priest named Fr. Peter was having a hard time believing the Eucharist was really Jesus, so he decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome. He stopped in the town of Bolsena to celebrate Mass at the tomb of St. Christina. During the Mass, after the consecration, the host started bleeding! The Pope was in the nearby town of Orvieto so he went and told him the story. After listening, the Pope had the host and the altar cloth brought to the Cathedral of Orvieto. It is still there to this day and every year on the feast of Corpus Christi they carry the cloth around the town in a big procession.
Maybe that seems like a long time ago? In 1996 in Argentina, a priest named Fr. Alejandro found a host that someone had left in the back of church sitting on a candle-holder. He was horrified, and he put it in a dish of water to dissolve so that he could dispose of it properly. It didn't dissolve, but instead turned into a bloody substance. He informed the Archbishop, a man by the name of Jorge Bergoglio, who had it professionally photographed. They kept it a secret for several years, but it didn't turn bad. So in 1999 they took a sample and sent it to New York for analysis. The scientists said it was real fresh and blood and contained human DNA. Here was the report from Dr. Frederic Zugiba:
“the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves. This muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart. It should be borne in mind that the left cardiac ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”(See Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires)
Yes, we have to have faith, but God helps us along with our faith.
The heart of Jesus, alive and beating, and beaten up for you! What a wonderful gift. Why did Jesus give us this gift? Because he wants to be with you. Today Jesus is calling YOU to be His disciple. He gives you himself in the Eucharist so that you and He can be really, really close. Even closer than BFFs! That's what it means to be "in Communion" with Jesus. We don't just "receive Communion" as a one time event, but the Eucharist lets us enter into Communion with Jesus.
Not everyone can receive Communion. You have to be baptized, you have to really believe, and you have to be willing to live your Communion every day. Baptized because it makes you God's children, and He feeds his children. Really believe it's Jesus, like Thomas. If you doubt, ask Jesus to help you with your faith. And willing to live your communion ever day. That means that while we give our hearts to Jesus in a special way today, we can and should live every moment in Communion with Him. We wake up and say, "Good morning God!" We give him our day as an act of love. We love our brothers and sisters because it makes God proud. We help our parents because God wants us to. That's what it means to live your communion - every day in union with God.
Your communion with God started years ago when you were baptized. Your parents want the very best for you, and they can't think of anything better than heaven! So they had you baptized as a little baby, and they promised to raise you to know God and to follow God. Now you are old enough to know God for yourself. So I want to ask you to renew your baptismal promises. The servers will be coming through to light your candles, and then I will be inviting you to make your baptismal promises for yourself. Do you believe...?
(26 April 2014)