There is an old wives tale that claims if it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain the following seven Sundays. I'm starting to become of the opinion that this also applies to snow because it has snowed every Sunday since Easter. What in the world! This past Sunday, as we hurried into the church foyer amid flurries, my husband stopped and asked me: "What do Latin American girls wear at their quinceaneras?"
Laughing, I described the gorgeous, prom-style dresses traditionally worn. And then two cute little seven or eight year old girls in miniature wedding dresses caught my eye. It was First Communion at St. John Francis Regis Catholic Church.
First Communion has always been a sacrament and celebration that I have looked forward to with my own children. It is one of the Sacraments of Initiation, that clearly mark those participating as members of the Catholic community. But what makes our Holy Communion distinct from our Christian brothers and sisters?
The True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
The priest on Sunday did an excellent job explaining it. He pointed out that Jesus would often explain things that confused those listening, such as His parables to the Disciples. But when He said "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood..." (John 6:53) and there was no further explanation. He meant what He said. The only way to enter the Kingdom of God is by consuming Him through this most holy sacrament of the altar.
It really is that (deceivingly) simple. Our small offerings of bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ, which we receive every time we receive communion at Mass. This is why we genuflect to the tabernacle when we enter the church, to acknowledge Jesus' presence in the Eucharist. It is why we say, with conviction, "Amen" before receiving Communion, indicating that yes, we believe! And it is also why we wait until our children are a bit older and received the sacrament of reconciliation to prepare to finally receive Jesus for the first time.
Watching those small children receive their First Communions, with excited, dancing feet and reverent faces, it reminded me of how truly incredibly it is that we get to receive Jesus every Sunday. What a beautiful reminder of how precious this time of worship and prayer is; how amazing God's love is for us that every Sunday we literally get to receive God's Son in the Eucharist. Not just figuratively. Literally.
Can you think of a better way to celebrate another Sunday of Easter than watching young Catholics finally to participate in the greatest gift God has given us: Jesus? We still have several more weeks of Easter to go too! How can you celebrate another Sunday of Easter this coming Sunday? How can we continue to keep Easter joy in our lives throughout this wonderful season of celebration and thanksgiving?
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I'll admit, the Easter excitement has definitely started to wear off. There's a gallon-sized baggie of malt eggs staring at me and a house that needs cleaning after a week of neglect. But Easter is not a one-day celebration. Easter is a church season; fifty days of celebrating the greatest triumph and mystery of our faith: the Resurrection. And because of it that, it deserves to be celebrated for much longer than just one day.
How can we celebrate Easter for fifty days? Or at least the next seven Sundays?
By really focusing on and participating in the Mass, which is, at its core, in honor of Christ. Every Mass is a mini-Easter. That's why Sundays are not part of the Lenten season. But the next seven Sundays are particularly special and we can honor that by celebrating each Mass with a devout and earnest heart.
A heartfelt Mass. A joyful Mass. A worshipful Mass.
Many of us already succeed in attending Mass each Sunday physically, but challenge to you (and myself) for the Easter season is to make each Mass truly worshipful and heartfelt. Really invest yourself into the Mass. Strive to walk out the sanctuary each Sunday feeling refreshed and ready to share God's love with those around you during the coming week.
Happy Easter, dear friends in Christ.