Opening the Word: A letter to my son on his first Communion

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(CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Timothy P O'MalleyThe writer has taken the occasion of his son’s first Communion to speak about the Eucharist considering the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

Since you were a toddler, you have longed for this day. At first, your longing was a matter of imitation more than anything else. Your mom and your dad received the body and blood of Christ, and if it was food for them, then it should be food for you.

You were not wrong, dear son. And yet the wisdom of the Church had you wait until this year. In your waiting, your toddler tantrums at Mass gave way to a calm, almost contemplative, gaze of love. You wanted to receive the body and blood of Christ not because your parents do, but because you grew to recognize who was giving himself to you on that altar.

April 25 – Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12
Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
1 Jn 3:1-2
Jn 10:11-18

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me …” (Jn 10:14).

You likely recognize this passage. Before this terrible virus, you spent every Monday at Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In the atrium, you contemplated the Good Shepherd, who loves his sheep so much that he will do anything to be with them. You came to recognize that he still does anything to be with us, giving himself to us on the altar in what looks like bread and wine.

And now, beloved son, you are invited to a deeper contemplation of the Good Shepherd. He knows you and loves you. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, you will know him in a new way. You will eat and drink his body and blood; you will be fed with the finest wheat by the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for you and for me.

All these years, I have called you my beloved son. And I always will. But your mom and I share another relationship with you that is maybe even more important.

The apostle John tells us about this relationship. He says, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1).

Mom and dad, your sister and yourself, fellow parishioners at Pius X. We are all children of God, baptized into a relationship with Jesus. Jesus, you know, is the beloved Son of the Father. And we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, children of the most gracious and loving God.

You likely do not remember when you first started to eat. We would take a small piece of food. You would approach me, and I would gently place it upon your tongue. You had such trust in your eyes. You had faith that I would feed you something good, something that would sustain you.

This is the same attitude we must have as we approach Christ’s body. As children of God, we know that our Father will feed us with something good to eat. In this case, it is not just bread and wine that we are to receive. We are to receive him. The Lord of heaven and earth, the creator of the stars of heaven wants to be so very close to us. So close that he lets us eat his body and drink his blood.

In the years to come, I will explain what this means, how our remarkable God transforms bread and wine into body and blood.

But for now, know this. Know that when you receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, not just today but for the rest of your life, the Good Shepherd gives himself to you. You, a child of God. Me, a child of God.

See the love that has been bestowed to us, children of such a gracious Father.

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.

Timothy P. O'Malley

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.