A Place For Everyone

I addressed this special event several days ago. Now that it is here, I am compelled to elaborate. It is simply too important not to…

Our granddaughter Ellie will receive First Communion this morning, and I find myself searching for appropriate words to share with her. I recall vivid details of my own First Communion Day more than fifty years ago. I don’t think I will ever forget these things. Many of my own parish children will join Ellie in receiving First Eucharist in a few weeks. What will Ellie and these little ones take from these special days into the years to come?

As I consider all that the Eucharist means to me, I look to our gatherings to pray each weekend. The cohesiveness that comes with our common walk to the altar touches me deeply. Regardless of the things which separate us beyond these wall -our politics, our tendencies to the left or to the right, our likes and our dislikes, our opinions regarding just about everything- when we approach God’s table, we are God’s children and God’s family in the truest sense. Indeed, we are one. How do I explain all of this to my seven-year-old granddaughter? How do we explain this to any of our children? When I serve as a Communion minister, I find a partial answer. Every time, I am amazed by the beauty in the unique faces who approach God’s table for sustenance. Not one of us is exactly like another. Even the identical twins among us cannot hide their individuality. Yet, regardless of our differences, we are welcome, each and every one, to break bread. How can we help God’s little children to understand that they are welcome as well? How do we convince them that there will always be a place for them at God’s table?

As I consider these children further, I long for the innocent simplicity with which they approach The Eucharist. Though most of us are touched by life’s troubles in one way or another, the children among us continuously regenerate our hope. They bring hope to the next moment, the next hour, the next year and the next decade. Some of them will carry that hope into the next century if only we equip them to do this. As I perused John’s gospel (John 10:11-18), I discovered more wisdom on this topic. John tells us that the one who keeps hope alive within our children and within us all is Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

To me, the Good Shepherd is among the most enduring and endearing images of God with which we have been gifted. What a perfect theme this is to guide our thoughts regarding our First Communicants. Little girls and boys donned in their best clothing will file into churches everywhere over the next few weeks. Parents will beam as they fluff veils and straighten ties one last time before entering. I see myself doing the same fifty years ago and with my own sons a few decades ago, and I am overwhelmed. “Where would I be today, Lord, if I had not been led by you and the many kindly shepherds who guided me throughout my life? Have I done this for my sons?” As I consider the complexities of life today, I go on to ask, “Where will Ellie and her peers be years from now if we fail to emulate the Good Shepherd who keeps hope alive for us all?”

As I ponder further, I realize that my granddaughter and the children in my own parish and in parishes everywhere are bright and amazing little people. They have prepared diligently for their First Communion Days. They have learned about their relationships with God. They understand that we make those relationships strong and enduring when we love God and love one another. They also understand that sometimes the love we offer is not our best. When this is the case, the children have learned just how wonderful it is to say we are sorry, to cast our guilt to the wind and to begin anew with God and our friends at our sides. Yes, our children will tell us that the day they receive First Eucharist is the day they come face to face and heart to heart with their Good Shepherd in a new and exciting way. They may even remember their First Communion Days fifty years from now, just as I do.

So it is that my search for the appropriate words to discuss First Communion with my granddaughter comes to an end. You see, when I find the opportunity to share these things with her, I will let my Good Shepherd lead the way. I am certain that Ellie will have a thing or two to teach me as well.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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