“We have to eat his body?!? “ Allie turned to me with eyes open wide and a face of shock and surprise.
She just turned eight, and she has been sitting in Mass hearing these words, “TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT, FOR THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU”, since she was a baby.
But now at eight, she is showing signs of a new maturity. I see her little mind turning over ideas with a new understanding.
I flash back to Allie as a baby. As I would walk forward to receive communion, I would have to hold her little hands, for they always reached for the host. As a toddler, Allie would walk forward and raise her cupped hands to Father trying to receive communion. One time, she looked up, saw Father and knew he wasn’t going to give her the host, so she stepped aside into another line (right in front of the folks waiting) hoping the Eucharistic Minister there would offer her the host. When they didn’t, she stepped back into line with Father D and received her blessing. Father Dennis got a kick out of it. She was so adamant in wanting to receive communion. And I will never forget the time I was carrying her and as she reached, Father Dennis instinctively bent and kissed her forehead, tenderly whispering, “Not yet, little one.” These are precious memories.
As she got a little older and entered school, Mass became boring to Allie. “How much longer?” became the question most asked during Mass. More interested in playing and being active than sitting still and listening, she would tell you she loves the Lord, but doesn’t like Mass. “That’s okay,” I would say, “We are still going to give thanks and be one with the Lord.”
Now she is eight. This week we will begin religious education and she will be preparing to receive her long awaited First Communion. She sits still throughout Mass, she listens with a new ability to reason and think about what is happening and what she is learning. She received first reconciliation and is quick to tell me, “You need to take me to confession.” (This was something of a surprise, but I have to admit, warms my heart.)
So we sit in Mass where she has heard these words during Mass over 400 times in her young life. And today, she processes the words and looks at me in shock. Perfect. Jesus astonished all of us when He walked on earth and He continues to amaze us today. So glad she too, finds these words shocking.
I lean in and whisper, “Yes, baby. We eat the host, Jesus becomes the host.”
“Does it taste like blood?” she asks.
“No, it tastes like a cracker,” but Jesus has become the bread that made the cracker.
“But why does he want us to eat him?” she asked.
“Because he loves us so much,” I answer. “Think about how much I love you. Sometimes I say, “I love you so much I could just gobble you up. I don’t really want to gobble you up; it is an expression of my love for you.”
She nods and pauses for a moment, pondering this thought. Then her face lights up and she looks at me with awe and wonder. “Oh, he wants to be one with me!” she exclaims, as she places her hand over her heart.
Yes, I nod. Hoping we aren’t distracting others, but not wanting to miss this moment. After all, God speaks to us in many ways, and often to me during Mass. I am not surprised she is questioning this right here, right now.
Allie bows her head and says a little prayer. She looks up to me and exclaims,
“I just can’t wait to receive communion.”
“Me too, baby girl. Me too.”