It was Holy Thursday Evening. The little boy wasn’t yet three years old. He was at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with his grandmother. They are at Mass together almost every Sunday morning. As young as he is, he manages more or less to sit still during the Mass. Usually, he and his grandmother sit on the outside aisle, but this time they were in the center aisle. The little boy had an unobstructed view of the main altar, which he seemed to enjoy as he was hanging off the pew looking at the sanctuary most of the time.
As soon as the priest came around the altar to distribute Holy Communion, the boy recognized the moment. He knew this was when he walked up with everyone else. He didn’t receive the host, of course, but he got a blessing. On Holy Thursday as soon as people got up for Communion, he jumped into the aisle and motioned to his grandmother to hurry as he excitedly jumped up and down. Over his small mask his eyes were smiling.
There is such a serious tone to Holy Thursday. It is indeed the celebration of the Last Supper when Jesus gave us his body, but the shadow of Good Friday looms over the Mass. The bells at the Gloria toll of the impending silence soon to descend on our liturgy. We won’t hear an organ again until the Easter Vigil. Into this silence a toddler jumps for joy because it is time to go forward to meet God, to receive God. Of course, the child has no idea what is happening; but his reaction is profound theology.
Imagine, if those of us who know that we are going to receive the body and blood of Christ, jumped for joy in the same way. If we think about what we are doing, about what we are to receive, we wouldn’t be able to contain ourselves. St. Augustine said; “We become what we consume.” When we receive Christ we become Christ — plenty of reason for excitement!
The Eucharist is what makes us Catholics. We are baptized into the faith, but the heart and center of our lives from that moment on is Eucharist. No matter the culture or country, whether in a basilica or a hut, we are one with the Lord and with each other when we are at Mass. We are one with the suffering Christ and we are one with the Risen Christ. We are one body in Jesus. What we do to each other we do to Christ. Sin and division among us is a denial of who we are called to be.
A year ago the COVID pandemic prevented everyone from celebrating the Eucharist in person. Thank God vaccines have allowed us back into our churches. We need to be with others at the Eucharist, to see others kneel and pray, to hear our shared responses and prayers, to stand together to receive the Lord. Thank God we are once again privileged to do so in person.
In the same church, on Good Friday, one of the first people going forward to reverence the crucifix was an elderly couple, one of whom was in a wheelchair. Once again, I was moved by the deep peace coming from both of them and the seasoned faith that brought them there on a cold Good Friday at their age. Their days of jumping up and down to receive Holy Communion are over, but their joy and desire were as obvious as the little boy’s antics.
The Eucharist brings us together, young and old, rich and poor, well and ill, sinners and saints. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Sister Patricia McCarthy currently teaches Math at a Catholic School. For many years she taught troubled children and victims of abuse.