June 13, 2019
by Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Creighton University's Athletic Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 362

2 Corinthians 3:15—4:1, 3-6
Psalms 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14
Matthew 5:20-26
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Parenting Our Adult Children
Praying As We Age

A couple of weeks ago, I was treated to a wonderful and joyous event: in a formal liturgical setting, a First Communion service for six children, all around 8 years old. Two of the communicants were my Great-Grand nephews, Jonathan and Michael. I asked the youngsters (one girl and five boys) what they had learned about communion in their carefully constructed lessons to get them ready for this special event.

One of the things they did at the end of their instructions was to make a two-banner image about the meaning of Holy Communion. The banners were there by the altar, so I invited them to come up and show what they each had added to the banners. Each in turn explained what they had learned about the bread, the wine, cross of the Lord, the special sacramental presence of Jesus and more. Remarks that were enjoyed by a special congregation of their moms and dads, grandparents and family friends. They spoke of the union that occurred in the Sacrament, a union with Christ, God, the Holy Spirit and with the members of the faith community. We are united with God and with our sisters/brothers who share our faith in Jesus Christ.

All in all, I had a sense that the faith was being handed on in a wonderful way. These young folks received Holy Communion that day and were obviously affected by the Sacrament. Indeed, Christ was alive and well and acting in and trough the Christian community of faith. A beautiful lesson learned and enacted by a group of young faithful.

Union, unity, com-UNITY and other similar words were expressed that day and taken in as a solid element of our faith – we are ONE with God and our fellow human persons. None of us is alone or separated from the community of faithful. We live and act. How does that union affect us?

Today’s gospel reading from St. Matthew encourages us to forgive, show mercy and justice, and strive for our being made one in and with Christ. Matthew implies here the full importance of these virtues. Jesus speaks, quoting from Ten Commandments: “you have heard that it was said to our ancestors, You shall not kill . . . but I say whoever is angry with his brother (or sister) will be liable to judgement” Jesus’ words encourage us to reconciliation. He goes on to note that If one is bringing his gift to the altar and remembers that his brother has something against him, he is to first be reconciled with the brother and then and only then offer the gift to the loving God.

What struck me about the First Communion was that none of us is alone in our faith commitment. Just as at Baptism, when we are privileged to join the Body of Christ, here in receiving Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we are united together are nourished so we can to live our lives devoted to extending the work of Jesus Christ in our world (local and worldwide). What a task!

But also, what a joy to realize that we are ONE with so many others who have this same mission: to humanize a world that spreads division, wars and rumors of war, violence, and Dis-UNITY. The antidote to that lack of unity is the strength of the person of Christ who we receive as nourishing food for our daily lives. To be sure, each of us is unique and significantly blessed by that uniqueness. In that blessing comes the invitation to seek and find our unity in the person of Christ. We’re NOT alone and we need to be proud of that unity with faithful people around our world.

Thank you, Gracious and Loving God, for your call to become one with you and the truly human persons of our earth Be with us as we accept your call to discover our unity with you through unity with your people and lead us towards the unity that confronts the division we all face from a world that prizes separation and alienation. Lead us all towards that unity that prizes true humanity modeled on the Christ we receive in Holy Communion. Bless abundantly the young people who here and around the world are invited to celebrate Holy Communion.

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