Many years ago, there was a holy nun that went to the great Saint Teresa and was telling her how she wished that she had been alive at the same time that Jesus was walking around on the earth. She kept thinking what a joy it would have been to see his face, to hear his voice and just to be near Him. “Imagine what it would have been like to even talk with Jesus!” she exclaimed. “Oh, I would be a saint if only I could have been with Jesus!”
Saint Teresa looked at her with love and said, “My dear sister, have you forgotten that Jesus is still on earth , and that He lives near you — yes, in the house with you (for there was a church in the convent where the nuns lived that had a tabernacle), and often in your very soul. Have you also forgotten that you can see Him and can speak to Him as often as you like? Is not Jesus with us in the Most Holy Sacrament? Why then do you wish to have lived long ago, since that same Jesus who lived with Mary and Joseph lives also with you?
Today, you will come close to Jesus in a way like never before? Although you do not see Him like the boys and girls 2000 years ago, through your faith and knowing what you have been taught about Jesus and Holy Communion, you believe in Him and know Him. We are not missing out on anything living at this time. We remember what Jesus said to Saint Thomas after He rose from the dead: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have come to believe.” (John 20.29)
Long ago Martha and Mary received Jesus into their house as a guest. Today Jesus is coming into the house of your soul. To get ready, just before Holy Communion time we say “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” You will say these words today with a joy and a love like never before.
To receive so great a guest as Jesus, how do we prepare? You have studied hard about Jesus in Holy Communion. You have learnt and said your prayers. You have made your First Confession. But how do we get ready just before receiving Jesus? Notice that receiving Holy Communion takes place during the Mass. All that we do at Mass prepares us. It is important to pay attention to all that goes on at the altar, to sing along, to answer the prayers along with everyone, to listen, and during the silence, to pray.
Your heart has to be full of love and desire for Jesus. Our behaviour and actions at Mass show our love and desire. We cannot go and get Jesus a drink, or share our lunch with Him, or invite Him to play, or give Him a hug and a kiss like we can with our family and friends. We show Jesus our love and desire in church by our reverence in how we act — when we genuflect with care,when we make the sign of cross thinking about what we are saying and doing, when we show respect for God’s house by not running and chatting.
How fortunate we are at Saint Jude’s because we have a communion rail. We can receive Holy Communion kneeling, which is a sign of our respect and adoration of Jesus. Saint Augustine tells us that no one eats the Body and Blood of Jesus, unless he has first adored it.
Even the way we receive Jesus in Holy Communion is important. In Canada we may receive both on the tongue and in the hand. For your first time, you will receive on the tongue. Why? Because receiving Jesus in Holy Communion on the tongue shows more reverence. How so? First of all, we remember that we are not receiving a thing, but Jesus Himself. Because of who Holy Communion is, we need to get ready. The priest gets ready by washing his hands before Mass and just before the Eucharistic prayer during which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. After having given Holy Communion, he also washes his fingers which touched the consecrated hosts. Why all this washing? It is done out of reverence for Jesus, whom the priest has touched with his hands. Even the water that was used for this last washing is not thrown down the drain, but the priest drinks it, because it may have in it small pieces of the hosts.
We know that when we touch some things, very small pieces of those things can stay on our hands. The host of Holy Communion acts just like bread, even after it becomes Jesus. We know that where there is bread, very often there are crumbs. Most of the time, we do not worry much about them, but in Holy Communion, the entire piece of bread has become Jesus. When crumbs fall away from that the host, those crumbs are also Jesus. Each and every crumb after the consecration is the entire Jesus. Because of the crumbs, the altar servers help with Holy Communion by carrying the communion paten, the round metal plates with a handle, to catch any crumbs that may come off the hosts. We do not want the crumbs to fall on the ground and then be treated like dirt.
Communion in the hand can make for many crumbs. Sometimes when the priest places the host in the hand of someone, it breaks in pieces. What happens to those crumbs? They may fall on the ground and get treated like dirt. Also, the people receiving the Host in the hand do not wash their hands after Holy Communion like the priest has to do to take care of any small pieces which may be sticking to his fingers.
When we receive on the tongue, there is far less chance of there being many crumbs which can fall on the ground because the host is handled less. In some parts of the world, the bishop does not allow communion in the hand. This is out of reverence for the presence of Jesus in Holy Communion.
After we have received Jesus, we go back to our seats. What should we do then? We do not talk to other people. We now talk to Jesus. In the Bible we read how Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their house. We are more blessed because we have received Him right into our own body and soul. What do I say to Him? First of all, thank Jesus for coming to you in this special way. Praise and adore Him. Tell Jesus how much you love Him. You can also talk about how sorry you are for ever having offended Him. With Jesus so close to you, talk to Him about those for whom you pray, like your family, relatives, and friends. During this special time, your parents will help you to this by making you be quiet and prayerful.
I pray that this day will be the beginning of a new and deeper friendship with Jesus. May you be filled with the joy that Saint Peter talks about in his letter when he says: “Although you have not seen Him, you love Him and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1.8)