Saturday, 21 December 2019 15:52

First Holy Communion Season

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    Every year our temples are invaded by numerous crowds of non-believers. We could call it, "the annual invasion of the atheists." 

    There is theoretical atheism and there is practical atheism. Theoretical atheists are those who declare themselves to be non-believers. Practical atheists may believe that "there has to be something out there somewhere," but in fact they live as if God didn't exist. 

    Catholic churches are God's temples, but they also belong to God's people in general and to God's local parochial community in particular. It is they, the members of the local community, who pay for the temple's maintenance, and their ancestors paid for its construction. They practice their faith weekly on Sundays in their local temples and in some cases daily by attendance at daily Mass and the praying of the rosary and other devotions. 

    Every year their temples, God's temples, are invaded by hordes of atheists. It is not just that they do not know God; they do not want to know God. 

    And the parishioners complain to the priest: "There were people drinking coca cola and eating pringles," "People were using their cellphones and tablets," "Two 10-year-old boys were fighting on the floor and when I tried to stop them their parents turned on me," "There were people talking during the hymns and the whole ceremony," "The little girls making their First Communion were covered in makeup," "I saw a 15-year-old boy putting the consecrated host into his pocket." 

    What can we do? What should we do? How must we live this? 

    John 2, 13-17 comes to mind: "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!' His disciples remembered that it is written: 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'" 

    I read a testimony once about a woman who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She wanted to do the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, in the footsteps of the Savior, walking the very same Via Dolorosa, the Path of Pain, that Christ himself walked from Pilate's Praetorium to the Hill of Calvary under the burden of the cross on which He was to be nailed. 

    When she got there, she discovered that the atmosphere was not favorable to prayer. She was surrounded by crowds of noisy people shouting and buying and selling, people who clearly did not have a single thought to spare for God. Discouraged, she decided to return to her hotel. In that very moment, a thought came to her mind. Perhaps it would be better to say that a voice spoke to her heart, saying: "It was like this when I did it too." 

    Realizing that it was the voice of Christ, or at least an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, which amounts to the same thing, she decided to persist with her intention to pray. In the midst of the noise, the indifference, the contempt, there was at least one heart seeking Christ. 

    When she reached the Hill of Calvary enshrined in its temple, she heard with a new penetration Christ's words on the cross, "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do." Forgive them, Father, they neither know nor wish to know what they are doing. 

    (The writer of this article once spent an entire Christmas morning asleep in church for the duration of three Masses: "The drunk on the back bench, forgive him, Father, he knows not what he does; forgive him, Father, he neither knows nor wants to know what he is doing"). 

    In last Sunday's Gospel passage, Jesus said, "Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home in him. Whoever does not love me will not keep my word" (Jn. 14, 23-24). Christ is seeking out people who will listen to his word, who will respond to his love, who will accept his company, like that pilgrim lady on the streets of Jerusalem, like us during raucous First Holy Communion ceremonies. He seeks out souls who will listen to his word, who will obey his teaching, so that He and the Father may enter our hearts and live in us. That's what communion means. 

    Last Sunday happened to be a First Holy Communion ceremony in my parish. I said everything I have written here in the homily. About a dozen people got up and left. It's not always necessary to expel people from the temple with a whip in hand; sometimes the simple truth and the call to conversion is sufficient. 

    But that pilgrim lady's experience in the Holy Land provides a light by which to live the annual invasion of the atheists, and by which to live our entire lives in these atheistic times. Christ is not distracted by the noise and the indifference and the superficiality. His focus is on your heart, in the hope of finding that your focus is on His. 

 

Fr Colm PowersFr. Colum Power, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1965, is a Servant Priest of the Home of the Mother. He obtained a Master's degree in literature in 1991 and a doctorate in the History of the Church in 2013. He is author of A Touch of the Gardener's Hand, Honey from the Lion's Carcass, and James Joyce's Catholic Categories. He devotes his time to apostolic activities for the youth organized by the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother. Fr. Colum Power is author and editor of the FFA blog "Random Reflections".