The month of May ushers in beautiful spring weather and celebrations such as Mother’s Day, first Communion and school and college graduations. Recently, my eldest son made his first Communion and I was deeply moved by the experience.
Leading up to his special day, my husband and I prepared our son by teaching him about God’s love, Jesus’ sacrifice and the beauty of the Mass. I had taught him the song that the Irish traditionally sing at first Communion entitled, “Cead Mile Failte Romhat a Iosa,” which means “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes to You Jesus.”
The words are translated as follows:
A hundred thousand welcomes, O Jesus, O Jesus
A hundred thousand welcomes, O Jesus
A hundred thousand welcomes, O Savior
A hundred thousand welcomes, O Jesus, O Jesus.
During Mass, as we prepare to welcome Jesus into our hearts we hear the words “This is my body given for you” (Lk 22:9). In the Scriptures, Jesus very clearly says, “THIS (meaning the bread and wine) is my body. He did not say “This is a sign of my body or this is similar to my body” but “this is my body.” When Jesus says, “This is my body,” we remember that God gave life to his body in his only Son through the incarnation.
When Jesus says, “This is my body,” we remember the Blessed Mother who gave her body to nourish the savior of the world. What a beautiful message of life! Mary, “full of grace,” gave her heart, mind and body over to God. Her “yes” changed the world. Each time she held Jesus, nourished him from her own body and watched his passion, she lived the words, “This is my body given for you.”
As my son was walking up to receive his first Communion, I remembered the day that I found out I was going to be a mother and a series of images came to my mind — the day I felt him kicking inside me, the moment I first held him in my arms, his baptism, his first day of school and I was filled with joy. As Fr. Peter said to him, “The body of Christ,” for the first time my son received Jesus in the gift of the Eucharist. As a baby, he left the safety of my body to enter the world but became a part of a different body — the body of Christ. The church, as the body of Christ, stands with her arms open like a mother to welcome, nourish and care for us.
The ability to receive Jesus in the Eucharist is a gift. Nobody can receive the Eucharist for you. It has to be a free, conscious act that you choose for yourself. I could not receive Eucharist for my son. He had to step forward and meet Jesus in the Eucharist for himself. As a parent, I can only lead my child in faith and teach him as best as I can. As Anne Frank said, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
Every time we receive the Eucharist, we can do so with the eyes of a child receiving for the first time and look upon those receiving with the unconditional love of the father and the mother.
As Christians, we have the choice to be Christ’s body in the world, as St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people.”
This is my body, given for you. How will I be his body in the world today?
Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”