Fr John's First Eucharist Homily 2019

15 September 2019 | General Interest


Mk 14.12-26  Dt 8.2-3  AA 2.42-47 (Rhyme Bible – ‘Children Come to Jesus’)

And so we especially welcome our young people who prepare to receive Eucharist with families and friends today.

Well, it’s springtime and even starting to feel like it. As usual, Leunig puts it well, along with his spring cartoon, as he says:

Thank God at last. Spring is coming. I can hear the bees inside me humming.

The mind becomes a flower bed. A nest is being built upon my head.

The spirit rises from its tomb. The weary soul is coming into bloom.

We’ve made it through. We will survive. The soil is sweet and love is still alive.

The bell of happiness is ringing. A little bird inside your heart is singing.

As a faith community, we’ve been focussing this month on the Season of Creation, so it’s a suitable reflection on nature and the wonderful world around us, positive words to brighten us up and make us smile.

Although, we already are happy and joyful to share the excitement of our young people looking forward to receiving the Eucharist in this celebration of their First Communion, very much a special part of our Catholic tradition and growing up experience (Can you remember yours?), as I think back happily to my First Communion day some 60 years ago in 1959 (when Mass was still in Latin), sitting for the group photo outside the Star of the Sea Convent fishpond, and I still have my certificate and Children’s Mass Book from that day (not to forget the photo)!

Times have certainly changed from then to now, as I look at my life evolving as a believing, but thinking and questioning Catholic. Most Catholics went to Mass on Sundays without thinking twice or questioning anything at all. It was just part of the tribal Catholic culture. Not so now!  

In a recent article titled “A modern believer”, a number of people of different ages and stages were interviewed about their faith and practice. Many identified as Catholic, as many of you do here, but without feeling the obligation or necessity to attend weekly or even occasionally, apart from Easter and Christmas and special events such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. There is certainly a disillusionment with the institutional church and its leadership, on many levels (and we can all relate to that, can’t we, particularly at the present time?), perhaps also a crisis of faith for some, along with a sense of freedom about making our own decisions and expressing our beliefs and questions about all sorts of things on matters of faith and otherwise. But let’s remember that it is we who are ‘The Church’, and it’s good that we think for ourselves and try to take the Gospel message to heart!

It’s all quite understandable to me. At the heart of it all, to my mind, is the person and message of Jesus, who calls us to be his followers by the way we live our lives and apply his teachings in word and action, as I like to say. Dare I suggest this is why you have brought your children here today, having had them baptized in the first place, and hopefully led them by example, to see that the Christian way of life is worth following, leading to a sense of meaning, purpose, fulfilment and happiness.

At the same time, there’s no denying that a man named Francis has changed the tone at the top, and, as Pope, has established credibility throughout our world, in regard to working for peace, breaking down global barriers, care for the environment, concern about and responsibility for climate change, refugees, the poor, the lost and the oppressed, a prophetic voice in the wilderness making himself heard, as he proclaims the message of the Gospel in contemporary and comprehensible terms.

And so, here we are now, celebrating our faith with families and friends, supporting our First Communicants on their journey of faith as they step forward to receive the Bread of Life, as Jesus tells us to do.

My theologian friend, Frank O’Loughlin (PP of Sandringham, just celebrated 50 years a priest!), in his latest book, ”New Wineskins” writes about ‘Eucharist in today’s context’: “Our age in its pluralism and secularity and its increasing ignorance of the Christian tradition makes believers think again”, as he talks about Eucharist as giving us “a vision of human life to be lived and communicated.” We talk about the real presence of Jesus, in his Word, in the Eucharist and in each other, as we gather in his name.

We call the Holy Spirit down upon the bread and the wine and the gathered church community, with you, and me as priest, but in it together, in repeating the action of Jesus from the Last Supper, as we do this in memory of him. Our Eucharistic prayer of thanks is not just the priest’s prayer, but of us all as believers. The Sign of Peace follows this as a reminder that we are called to be friends and to accept our differences and forgive each other and ourselves for our faults and the things we’ve done wrong and the bad choices we have made at times, which is why we celebrate Reconciliation and express our sorrow every time we come together for Mass, to hear the Word and be nourished by Eucharist.

Meals are where we come together to spend time and share our stories, and listen to and encourage each other, although in today’s rushed world and our diverse activities, that can be hard to do. Jesus shows us the way here, particularly in Luke’s Gospel, where he spends much time sharing meals with all sorts of people, from the religious leaders who think they are more important than they are, to the poor, the rejected and the disliked, like once greedy little tax collector Zaccheus, who comes down out of his tree he’s gone up, in order to see Jesus, who invites himself home for a free feed – dinner at the house of Zaccheus with his family, something not approved of by the high and mighty. Then there is the woman judged a sinner who washes Jesus’ feet at the Pharisee’s house, and again they object. We see, however, that Jesus is his own man all the way. He doesn’t comply with their negative and judgemental attitudes. He welcomes all and eats with them as a sign of friendship and acceptance. And so it is for us as we gather together, no passports required to come through our doors.

As for signs and symbols, here we use the bread and wine just as Jesus shared with his friends, simple and basic, but sources of nourishment and enjoyment. As one into biochemistry, I like the fact that bread is carbohydrate, providing metabolic energy (C6H12O6 – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms forming molecules at the heart of life) and wine (containing 12+% C2H5OH as ethyl alcohol), a source of celebration and joy, of which we share when we are older (in moderation, of course!).

Once again, I’ll conclude my reflection here, with a parable, titled “Milo and the Magical Stones”, by Marcus Pfister (“The Rainbow Fish” author), which I see as a symbol of the light and warmth that we experience when we think about what Eucharist means, as bread for the broken, for all of us, to give us spiritual strength and enlightenment on our journey of life and to help us continue to make positive choices in following the way of Jesus, living in his light and his love.


john hannon   15th September 2019


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