5th Sunday of Easter - May 6, 2012  (First Communion Sunday)

Today [as we celebrate the Solemn Holy Communion of our 3rd graders] our Lord Jesus says in the Gospel, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  That is what God wants from each of your lives… that your lives would bear the supernatural fruit of God’s own Divine Love lived out in real virtuous deeds.

Our Lord Jesus is the main grape vine.  If one of the branches tries to live separately from the main vine, that branch will not only bear no fruit, but it will dry up and die.  The same is true with anyone who tries to live without a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  If a Catholic only gives lip service to God and says they believe in Jesus Christ, but aren’t backing up those words in real actions by going to the sacraments that Jesus Himself gave us, they are trying to live their lives separate from the main vine.  By their actions they are already saying “no” to the invitation of our Lord Jesus who invites us to “take and eat, for this is My Body.”

So today 3rd graders, you are saying “yes” to the invitation of Jesus who is coming to you in Holy Communion.  By saying “yes” you are allowing Jesus to come to you in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Jesus teaches us in John chapter 6 that His flesh is real food and His blood real drink.  The Jews at the time thought He was speaking of cannibalism so many of them walked away from Jesus.  But the apostles discovered at the Last Supper that Jesus was giving them His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink under the appearances of Bread and Wine, and ever since the Church has continued this greatest of Sacraments given to us by Jesus Himself.

There are a lot of people who think that it really doesn’t matter if I practice my Catholic Faith or not… that it doesn’t matter if I miss Sunday Mass as long as I don’t kill anyone and do some good things then I’ll probably earn heaven.  You cannot earn heaven.  Heaven is a gift, not a right.  In fact our Lord Jesus says in John chapter 6, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.”  Without Christ’s Life flowing into us like sap, our lives will be just dried up dead branches fit only to be burned as Jesus says in today’s Gospel.  Without grace, any of the good things we do in our human nature alone cannot gain for us an eternal life.  No matter how many good things I do, if I am not living in the state of grace (not going to confession regularly and saying “no” to Jesus by not receiving Holy Communion in His grace), than those acts have no eternal quality to them and if I die while not in the state of grace, I have forever chosen an eternal death with out God.

To go to heaven we really do need a supernatural life to lift our natural human lives into God’s own Eternal Life.  That supernatural gift is called grace, because it gives us the great gift of being able to share in the Life of Christ, in God’s own Divine Life.  The supernatural Life of Christ that we receive in Baptism needs to be nourished so that our union with Christ may grow deeper and deeper.  That is why we receive Holy Communion!  Then if I die in Christ’s Life living in me, I really do not die, but will live forever with Jesus enjoying the Father’s infinite Love in the eternal love story of heaven.
This is what Jesus means when He asks us to be that living branch that stays connected to Jesus, not just by lip service, but by actually acting on a living faith and doing what our Lord Jesus Himself commanded us to do.  Our Lord clearly told us, “Take and eat of it, for this is My Body…”, so we trust Him and obey.

When we eat earthly food like a hamburger, that food becomes a part of us, nourishing our body and helping it to grow and remain strong.  But Jesus gives us a much higher type of food.  When we eat the Body of Christ and Drink His Blood, then in a much deeper way, we are drawn into God’s own life.  That union of our heart with the Heart of Jesus is like a healthy branch that is connected to the main vine.  Then the sap of His Divine Life can flow into our lives and all the good we do is really the Life of Christ coming alive in us.  Those acts of virtue and love become eternal acts, supernatural acts of grace.

So 3rd graders, today in your Solemn Holy Communion, you will be receiving the greatest gift God can give you… Himself and His own eternal Life.  And not just this one time.  Our Lord Jesus wants this relationship to grow and become deeper.  No one who loves another person just meets with them intimately once and says that is enough.  That wouldn’t be love.  No when two people really love each other, they want to be intimate friends who meet again and again.  The same is true with Jesus.  He invites you here today, but then He wants to give Himself to you again and again, each and every Sunday or Saturday evening, because that is what friendship with God is… to grow in a deeper and deeper communion of hearts with our living God.  So each week when you receive your Lord and God in Holy Communion, you are also already saying “yes” to heaven.

May our Immaculate Mother teach us to keep saying “yes” to the invitation of Jesus and receive His Body and Blood with deeper and deeper faith as she did.