First Communion Handouts are at the bottom of Post.
Because you like me are parenting school age children you have no doubt been subjected to more Spongebob episodes than you can count. One of my favorites is when Mr. Crabs and his Crabbie Patties are bought out by a fast food chain that then begins to mass produce the patties using some sort of gray gunk. Customers continue to eat them in an absentminded-shove- it- down- your- throat kind of way with blank far away looks in their eyes. SpongeBob grimly remarks “Where’s the love? ” You only need to watch a few episodes to know that Spongebob always prepares the real patties with love.
When our children were small my husband and I got into the habit of cooking a special meal once a week after the kids would go to bed. During the rest of the week our meals are about getting something nutritious and kid friendly on the table fast so we can get to the next thing, but date night is different – it was and is “about the Love.” The love of food, the love of cooking, the love of creating, the love of sharing and being together, the love of one another. On date night we use the best ingredients and spend a little more money and time in the effort. Now that our children are getting older and stay up later the ritual starts earlier and usually includes giving them a sample before sending them to bed.
Jean Vanier founder of L’Arche has said, “There is a very deep link between food and love; our culture has lost sight of that. “
What is going on in each and every Mass at each and every Catholic Church is a love affair between God and His people. Perhaps part of the reason we sometimes feel out of touch at Mass is because we have lost sight of it as a feast of Love or have an incomplete understanding of what it is all about.
Loving preparation goes into every Mass, just as it does those special meals. There is a cloth on the table, we light candles, we have music, we use the best ingredients. The various ministers and the Priest spend time in advance preparing themselves. At the Mass itself the movements are slower and more purposeful, the dialogue is an exchange of Love between God, the priest and the people, that builds to a climax at the consecration and great Amen. At the Altar heaven and earth meet and Christ becomes present under the appearance of bread and wine!
It helps first and foremost to understand some old testament history. In the time before original sin, there was no distance between God and Man. God walked in the garden and spoke to Adam and Eve. After original sin that relationship is destroyed and a spiritual chasm forms. (Think of the damage you may have witnessed in relationships – your own or others .) God could have chosen to leave it that way, he was betrayed by his creation, but instead even at the moment of the sin he promises forgiveness and the establishment of a new way and a new covenant. That way was by choosing to become a human being and submit to the evil around him without ever giving into it. Even death does not contain God.
The Mass and the Eucharist is our celebration of the Paschal mystery. This refers to the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. The word Pasch is the Jewish word for Passover. Remember Passover for the Jewish people is the celebration of the angel of death passing over the houses of the Hebrews (Jews). This final plague was what won the release of the Hebrew slaves. God was with them throughout this journey and beyond. Jesus is celebrating a Passover meal with his followers at the Last supper. It was the blood of the Passover lamb, sacrificed for the Passover meal which when sprinkled on the doorposts saved them from death. Jesus is the new Passover, Jesus is the new lamb, Jesus blood is the blood of the new and eternal covenant. The link between these two events is a point which would not have been lost on any Jewish person of the time. If the first Passover gave a temporary stay of death – they all still died eventually – Jesus sacrifice lets us live eternally in heaven with God.
And did you know that it is not only Jesus sacrifice that is re enacted at Mass and not only the bread and wine that are transformed. During the offertory when the bread and wine are brought forward we offer ourselves. All of our suffering, little deaths, enslavements, joys, talents, anxieties, fears, are offered up and transformed on that altar too. Uniting our sufferings to Christ’s and others transforms the meaning of suffering and gives it the power to strengthen renew and “resurrect” and not just us but those around us that is the meaning of “offering it up to God”
Jean Vanier also says, “The after life in the biblical vision is being invited to the table of God. And that means that now you are no longer servants of God, you are friends. The covenant is manifested because we eat together.”
When we get back to our pew and have those minutes with Jesus within us and are especially close to him we should take time to thank him and listen. As St. Teresa of Avila says in The Way of Perfection, “These moments are very precious; the Master is teaching you now; listen to Him, kiss His feet in gratitude for all He has condescended to do for you, and beg Him to remain always with you. Even should you be deprived of sensible devotion, faith will not fail to assure you that Our Lord is truly within you.”
5 Simple ways for parents to get more out of Mass
1. Come early and stay late.
Having a few minutes to settle everyone down, get to the right page of the missalette, and take a deep breath can make all the difference. Feel free to hang around a bit afterwards to look at the statues or stained glass or even talk to the priest a bit. (They really do like to get to know you!)
2. Read along and read ahead.
Seeing the words in the prayers and readings as you listen can help it stick in your mind better and pick up on things you might have missed otherwise. Reading the days readings before Mass is another good way to make it more meaningful.
3. Pick one word, phrase or idea from the homily to carry with you that week.
4. Receive Communion with awareness and gratitude.
5. Every once in a while outside of Mass time stop in the church just to pay a visit and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament . We are fortunate to have an Adoration chapel here. If the door is locked someone from the office can give you access.