Over the next month in parishes across the Archdiocese of Washington, children will be making their First Holy Communion. They will come forward to receive Our Lord – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the consecrated host and Precious Blood. Often the homily is written and preached for the ears of our young Catholics, and often the simplicity of the homily reminds the adult listeners that we ought never to take for granted the great gift of the Eucharist. Our faith teaches us that what we proclaim in the Eucharist – Christ’s death and resurrection – is also re-presented in that very action by the power of God’s love and goodness. This is the heart of our faith in the sacrament we call the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the real presence of Christ.
The Eucharist is at the center of the Church’s life. In the celebration of this mystery of faith, Christ himself is present to his people. Rich in symbolism and richer in reality, the Eucharist bears within itself the whole reality of Christ and mediates his saving work to us. In short, when the Church gathers in worship of God and offers the Eucharistic sacrifice, not only is Christ really and truly present under the species of bread and wine, but Christ also continues his saving work of our salvation. Just as, individually, we are brought into union with Christ through our participation in the paschal mystery and our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, so the Church as the new people of God comes to be in its celebration of the Eucharist. We are a people made one with Christ and one with each other, precisely in the Eucharist. It is for this reason that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being.” In other words, our weekly participation in Mass is essential to our identities as Catholics.
Since we are constituted as God’s family, God’s people – his Church – precisely by our participation in the Eucharist, we cannot grow into Christ’s new body as healthy and full members without sharing in the Eucharistic liturgy. On each Sunday, the faithful come together not only to profess the faith but also to renew the life of Christ within them. We gather not as individuals isolated from each other and related only to God, but as God’s family interrelated to each other and through the Church. We are made one in the Eucharist.
For this reason, the Church calls upon believers to celebrate the great gift of God with us at Mass every Sunday. To absent oneself from the Sunday Eucharist is to diminish one’s own spiritual life – one’s own communion with Christ’s new body, the Church.
We celebrate Eucharist as a faith family – as the Church – on Sunday because it is here that we find our identity, our unity and our very being as members of Christ’s body, members of his Church. Whether or not you know the children making their First Holy Communion in your parish, you have a share in their formation by showing them that Catholics are a family who gather each and every week for the celebration of the Mass.