The following homily was delivered last 4 October during the First Holy Communion of Grade 4 Sections D, G, and I at Mary the Queen Parish, San Juan
A long time ago, when there were not many Christians, especially in Rome…
Tarcisius – Roman Christian, 12 years old, asked by a priest to bring communion to Christian prisoners. Why? People were not allowed by the Roman Empire to become Christians. IT WAS FORBIDDEN. People were put in prison, and often fed to the lions and wild animals, or made to fight each other and eventually kill each other. Violent times.
Tarcisius was a brave boy. He was also the perfect person to bring communion, because people would not suspect he was carrying something. He may have been doing this several times already. However, on one particular occasion, while he was bringing communion which was wrapped carefully in a piece of cloth, and which Tarcisius held close to his chest, boys his age who were not Christians recognized him. They invited him to play. But he refused because he had some important errand to do. Then the boys noticed something he was carrying, (AHA!) and they started to grab it from him. Of course Tarcisius resisted. And the boys became violent and started to punch him, beat him with sticks and stones. An older Christian saw this, and drove away the boys. By the time this Christian reached Tarcisius, he was badly wounded and bleeding. And before long, he expired. (It is said that when they opened the piece of cloth, there was nothing there. The blessed hosts had disappeared.) Much later, Tarcisius was declared a martyr saint.
Why did Tarcisius resist giving the communion, the blessed hosts that he was carrying? Because this was the body of Jesus Christ. This was Jesus himself. And this for him was most precious. He deeply respected and wanted to defend Jesus.
In a short while, during communion, you will be receiving the very same Jesus that Tarcisius protected. But you are very fortunate because you do not have to hide the body of our Lord. You will not be put in prison if you receive Jesus. In fact, you can receive Him anytime you want. When? Each time you come to mass. How privileged and fortunate you are.
What happens when you receive communion? Jesus comes to you, he is now present in your heart. He will accompany you. And just like Tarcisius, I hope you will understand how precious this communion is to you. You are receiving Jesus, the Son of God. And we are very happy that you will be receiving him for the first time, and each time you come to mass.
Parents, I have tried to very simply explain what it means for your sons to receive communion. It is Jesus himself that they are receiving. It is Jesus who wants to be part of your son’s life. Go back to what Jesus himself said at the last supper – something which we say over and over again during consecration – Take this all of you and eat it. This is my body. Do this in memory of me. i.e. Please remember me. Please make me present again and again. And so, it is Jesus himself almost begging us to receive him. And we wish our son to let him receive Jesus, as often as he can. We will not deprive him of this privilege, will we?
Later, when you accompany your son to receive communion and standing behind him, with your hand on his shoulder, it is like telling him, “Son, I am standing behind you. And I support you in what you are doing, because I believe that that is truly Jesus you are receiving.”
But please do not support your son this way only for today. Please please bring him to mass as often you can, especially on Sunday, so that he can receive the Lord. How else can he go to church, unless you accompany him there. And if you yourself will receive the Lord in communion, is that not a wonderful encouragement for your son to do this as often. It will of course be funny, if your son receives communion, but you don’t. Very importantly then, please go to mass on Sunday, and if you can go as a family, all the better. At Xavier School, we have begun to have Family Sunday mass on the first Saturday evening of each month in the school, to encourage families to come for an anticipated mass. It is our modest way of addressing a concern of families who hardly come to mass, and because of this, their sons are not given a chance to go to mass and receive communion.
This day then marks a special beginning. Your son is receiving the great privilege, a most precious gift, of Jesus in communion. We pray that you dear parents and elders, will also partner with us in truly bringing your sons closer to Jesus, by yourselves becoming closer to the Lord through frequent and regular attendance at mass, and the receiving of communion. This is my body… this is my blood. Do this in memory of me. Amen.