Sunday, April 22, 2012

Receive Well

Mantegna's Crucifixion with Host Superimposed
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-9
1 John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

*Weekend of First Holy Communion*

With the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, we are set free from our sins and the doors of Heaven are thrown open for the faithful to enter joyfully into Paradise. This is great news and should bring joy to our hearts and a longing for that day when we get to join God for all eternity. But in the midst of our joy, it’s important to remember that just because the gates of Heaven are opened to us doesn’t mean that we can sit back and relax.

When he was with the two disciples in the gospel story today, Jesus didn’t say that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and then we’d do whatever we wanted to because we’re all going to heaven. He said that the Christ would suffer and be raised on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name. We rejoice that Heaven is open and praise the Lord that our sins can be forgiven. But we must also do those things that grant us God’s forgiveness: turn away from sin and follow the commandments of God. This is the hard part because sin appears to be a good thing, or as I’ve heard it before, it tastes good while it’s happening. We eat too much because food tastes good. We cheat because it’s easier than being honest. We hold grudges because it’s easier than forgiving someone who hurt us. It’s almost always easier to do things that are wrong or avoid doing things that are good. But the thing is that as Christians, Jesus tells us that we are to do what is right, not what is easy.

The neat thing is that the thing that opened the gates of Heaven is also the way that the Lord helps us to pass through them. It was Jesus’ death on the Cross and His Resurrection that opened the gates of Heaven. And it is that same death on the Cross that we celebrate here at Mass. In an unbloody manner, we participate in and receive the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross when we receive Holy Communion. When we receive Holy Communion well, we receive special blessings that help us to do the things we’re supposed to do and avoid the things we aren’t supposed to do. Notice that I said receive Holy Communion well. Not just receive Holy Communion. What do I mean by that?

Practically speaking, we ought to watch the children as they receive Communion today and imitate it ourselves. See how they have dressed up and made this a special occasion, not just something that happens casually but something they have really prepared for. They come not with sin on their hearts but with purity and simplicity because they know Who it is that they are receiving. Notice that they receive intentionally with their hands raised like a throne to receive Jesus their King. Listen to their excited “Amen!” as they receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Watch them pray in their pews after receiving Holy Communion and experience for the first time the union of their body with that of God. And lastly, listen to the joy that they have in singing after receiving Holy Communion. If all of us can approach Holy Communion in the same manner, we will surely gain many graces and will be more than ready to enter the Heavenly Gates when our day comes.