As a music minister at a First Communion Mass, I have a front row seat for some real beauty and also some outright hilarity. I watch the facial expressions of the second-grade children as they receive the Eucharist for the first time, and it can be hard to keep my place in the music; they are so filled with wonder, and worry, and excitement. They want to do everything ‘right’. They are the very definition of precious.
The number of them who make the sign of the cross backwards or in other ways wrong is relatively high, but their hearts are in the right place. They know this is a big deal. This weekend, I saw a girl in an off-white dress who read a prayer of the faithful, and exuded such maturity and grace that you could almost see her adult self in her teeny countenance. I saw white-suited boys who could not stop smiling. I saw a boy who wiggled his fingers like an evil genius as he waited to receive Jesus; he was so excited that it looked like he was getting away with something. And he was right, of course. That we can become one with God in this way…that He would become small enough to fit inside a piece of bread just to get closer to us…well, it is scandalous to be sure, but in the very best sense of the word.
Later when the congregation rose and processed to receive the Eucharist, I saw a tiny girl who extended her hand for a high five, and I happily watched the priest oblige her with a huge smile on his face. (Note to curmudgeonly Catholics: this is certainly WJWD.) I saw adults approaching in tears. Perhaps it had been a really long time and maybe they saw, just for a moment, that God had been waiting for them all along. I saw teachers and coordinators who were completely invested in this moment for their students and I thought of the crowd that will await them in Heaven one day…all of the lives they touch without even being aware of it. I saw a boy receive the Eucharist and then somehow end up in the wrong line; his mother patiently waiting and then swimming upstream through the crowd to retrieve him, painting the picture of Jesus when he was twelve. I saw a woman who has no children who always mothers me and I saw Mary and my mother in her as she told me over and over that I am special and loved. For that moment, I believed her.
There is a lot that happens in a First Communion Mass, and some of it feels crazy but that’s what happens when big families gather for an important meal, isn’t it? We dress up and there are pictures and speeches and love and it’s crowded and everyone needs a nap afterwards, but for that time, everyone is together and everyone is fed. And that’s what’s it’s all about, I think, thanks be to God.
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