Receiving Holy Communion

Receiving Holy Communion

Just over a month ago the city of Detroit hosted the NFL Draft, and it was a wonderful, successful, and highly-praised event that brought our region many compliments and much favorable publicity—but on that same Saturday at the end of April something far more important happened: our second graders from school and the Faith Formation program made their First Communions. Football players come and go, but receiving the Eucharist can give lasting meaning to our lives and help prepare us for eternal life—and our children certainly seemed to understand this. I asked them to write what that event was like for them, and I’ll now share with you some of their comments.

Lilly wrote, “When I received Jesus for the first time, it was amazing,” and “amazing” was a word also used by Emma and Lydia. In fact, Lydia was so excited that the morning of April 27 seemed to drag on forever until it was finally time for Mass. Eli said First Communion was cool, and Riley, Ava, and Nora mentioned how excited they were. Gianna and Jordan both felt very good afterwards, and Brock wrote that making First Communion “made me feel closer to Jesus [and] it also felt super good.” Teddy elaborated on this idea, saying, “I felt a bit nervous, because I was going to receive Communion in front of everyone. So when it was done, I felt really good”—and then he added, “I felt brand new! I felt so good that I want to do it again and again.” Grace remarked that she felt very happy to receive Holy Communion, and Annabella agreed, saying, “I couldn’t wait; I kept thinking about it—it was so [much] fun.” Lincoln, Nova, and Raina all said that making their First Communion was life-changing, and Annamaria agreed, writing, “When I received Jesus, my life was so much better.”

Anthony said he was grateful for receiving Jesus in his life, and according to Lucy, “It was fun receiving the Body of Christ. After Mass, I knew my family would be happy.” Audrey called her First Communion “one of the greatest things that ever happened to me,” and Angelina said, “I felt loved; I knew [I received] the Body of Christ.” Makena wrote that she knew she was “receiving God,” and Madelyn agreed, saying, “I felt like Jesus and God were right next to me.” Similarly, Melina wrote that in Communion “You get to receive the Body and the Blood of Christ.” Lastly, Joseph stated “I was so happy about taking Holy Communion because I’m eating the Body of Jesus.”

There is much wisdom in these words of our second graders. Receiving Our Lord in Communion should make us feel happy and grateful, and it is an amazing idea that the Eternal Son of God should humble Himself in such a manner, giving Himself to us as food for our souls. Jesus does indeed come to us each time we worthily receive Holy Communion, and this is something we should want to do again and again—ideally, with our families and loved ones. The Feast of Corpus Christi—Latin for the Body of Christ—is a reminder and celebration of the holy and amazing truth that the Eucharist is Jesus Himself, and as such, is indeed spiritually perfect food for our souls, a source of immense blessing and grace, and a joyful promise of everlasting life. 

Human life depends on regular nourishment, and on the continual flow of blood through our bodies. As the readings for this Feast make clear, this is also true in a spiritual sense. When Moses (Exodus 24:3-8) made a covenant, or sacred agreement, with God on behalf of the people, he sprinkled them with the blood of the bulls offered as sacrificial victims, and the Letter to the Hebrews (9:11-15) states that Jesus Himself became the sacrificial victim and the mediator of a new covenant. Indeed, the Gospel of Mark (14:12-16, 22-26) tells us that at the Last Supper Jesus said, “This is My Blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” We are included in this promise, and the Lord personally invites us to the heavenly banquet which lasts forever.

Because Holy Communion is so important, it’s appropriate to offer some reminders on the proper way to receive It. First of all, if anyone believes the Host is only a symbol, and not the actual Body and Blood of Christ, that person should not disrespect or offend God by receiving the Eucharist but should come forward with crossed arms to receive a blessing instead. The same thing is true for anyone guilty of a serious or mortal sin, such as missing Sunday Mass without a good reason, engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage, using contraception, supporting abortion and pro-abortion politicians, and loving anyone or anything more than God. If we do commit a mortal sin, it’s necessary to be absolved in the confessional before receiving Communion, lest we commit another serious sin of sacrilege.

When we come forward for the Eucharist, the focus should be on Jesus, not on ourselves or anyone else in church. We may stand or kneel when it’s our turn and may receive in our hands or on the tongue. Either way is all right, though many people believe receiving on the tongue while kneeling is especially reverent and thus more pleasing to Jesus. If receiving on the tongue, it’s helpful to the priest or minister of Holy Communion if you keep your head and your tongue perfectly still; we’re trying to avoid touching your tongue, but that becomes much harder if your head or tongue are moving. If receiving on the hand, if you’re right-handed, have your left hand on top; that way your right hand will be free to pick up the Host and place it in your mouth. If you’re left-handed, your right hand should be on top. It’s not reverent to receive the Host in your dominant hand, flip it over to your other hand, and then pick it up. Your hands should be clean if you’re receiving Communion in this way. Please don’t try to take the Host from the priest or Eucharistic minister; as Catholics, we don’t take Holy Communion—we receive It. Place the Host in your mouth immediately; never carry It back to your pew. Lastly, give thanks to Jesus for coming to you in this miraculous way—either by singing the Communion hymn, or by praying silently. This is an especially good time to share with Jesus what’s in your heart—thanking Him, praising Him, and asking His blessings and help not only for yourself, but also for others.

Too many Catholics disbelieve in the Eucharist or take It for granted. We must make sure we never hurt or offend Our Lord in this way—and our second graders are giving us a wonderful example. Like them, let us always receive Jesus with gratitude and delight.  

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by
Fr Joseph Esper