I mentioned in an earlier post today that St. Francis de Sales Oratory was the site for first Holy Communion for several children yesterday– Good Shepherd Sunday.
Canon Michael Wiener, Rector of the Oratory, gave the following excellent sermon which he was kind enough to allow me to publish:
I am the Good Shepherd.
The Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep.
Dear First Communicants,
Dear Families and Friends,
The Good Shepherd could not have done more for us! The genius of the Catholic Religion, the claim for its uniqueness and truth is rooted in the beauty of this mystery:
God made man and gave Himself by dying for our sins on the cross. The Lord could not have done more for us than giving His life for us on the cross.
Suffering and dying Jesus entrusted all of us to His Blessed Mother by saying to St. John: “Behold thy Mother”. We know that this word was spoken in the moment of the sacrifice of Christ which is the source and reason of our salvation, the reason why we are able to enjoy daily the re-established union with God Almighty in our life as baptized and gifted with grace.
Having created us, having loved us from the beginning to the end, the Lord wanted to make this central truth and mystery of our faith effective and fruitful in all of us individually – not only in a general way, but in a way that we all are actually able to be refreshed, renewed and nourished by His sacrifice which He performed on the cross, once and for all.
Jesus gave us the Eucharist which is called Holy Communion when we receive it. “It is called Holy Communion because it allows us to enjoy the union of the heart of Jesus – the heart of God – with the heart of man.”
Natural food nourishes our bodies, Holy Communion nourishes our soul supernaturally. (ST IIIa, q. 79)
This is another mark of the genius of our religion: God’s generosity doesn’t stop at the point when He opens heaven for all who believe in Him by suffering and dying on the cross. The good shepherd finds the most appropriate and effective way for us human beings, composed of body and soul, to nourish us daily with the fruits of His work of redemption.
“I am the bread of life. He that comes to me shall not hunger, and he that believes in me shall never thirst. … I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. … For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. ” (John 6:35, 51f., 55f.)
This spiritual food, the Holy Eucharist, sustains. As our bodies need to be sustained, so also our souls need solid nourishment to continue to live, to be strengthened against weakness and sickness.
The Eucharist restores: As natural food gives back to our bodies what it has lost over time, the soul is restored by the heavenly food in Holy Communion. The Council of Trent teaches that “Holy Communion frees us from venial sins, gives us back the former fervor we had before we committed venial sins and preserves us from mortal sin”.
Holy Communion allows us to grow. As natural food does not only sustain and restore, but makes the body of a man grow, so the Eucharist brings us always new graces which makes us grow in the love of God and our neighbor and in all other virtues.
And finally: As natural bread is pleasant to taste, so also the Eucharist is pleasant to receive. Who among us have not experienced the wonderful sensation of sweet consolations, great joys and strong encouragements after we have received Holy Communion? We all know about the powerful supernatural gifts that sometimes can be felt as an inexplicable comfort which the world can not give to us.
My dear first communicants: When you receive today for the first time the Lord Himself you are made aware of the great gift that comes to you. The liturgy of Mother Church allows you taste the sweetness of God’s presence every day, but today Jesus comes to you in a very special and unique way. Keep this day in your memory, always prepare yourself well whenever you are going to receive the Lord. Study the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist, reread the catechism and what it tells you about the sacrifice of the Mass. Renew the fervor you have whenever you approach Holy Communion and ask God in your prayers most importantly for humility. You are little before Jesus and we all should make us small before God when we receive the Eucharist.
The day of your First Holy Communion is a joyful day for all of us and an occasion to ask God again for a renewed favor and generosity on our part to know and to love the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. The Good Shepherd will guide us to His rich and superabundant fields of His heavenly graces if we ask Him fervently.