Our God is a God of second, and third, and thousandth chances. Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven times. This actually isn’t about forgiveness, though. This is about second chances we actually don’t usually get. I made my first Holy Communion when I was six, or maybe seven. I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea that Jesus was in the Eucharist, and I did not appreciate the gravity or significance of what was happening. Mostly I remember having to deliberately go slow down the aisle between rows of pews so the priest could put, what I thought, was a weird, tasteless wafer in my mouth.
The Lord was sometimes mentioned in passing at home to enforce morality or to explain things we didn’t understand, but beyond that, God wasn’t really part of our life at home. In retrospect, I’ve sometimes lamented that I didn’t appreciate that I was having my first encounter with the God and King of the universe in an average suburban town, in the first grade. When I agreed to be confirmed in high school, it was largely because my parents wanted me to. My classmates and I were catechized very poorly, and I didn’t know what I was agreeing to, or what I was receiving.
For most Catholics who are serious about their faith, two of the most significant moments are their first Communion, and their last. There are times when people voluntarily decide not to receive communion for moral reasons, or because they didn’t fast for an hour before Mass, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a big deal because they can easily go to confession and even go to daily Mass the following day.
On the other hand, there are still places in the world where Catholics don’t have priests available and can’t often receive the Sacraments. I understand now how awful that feels. In this, though, I’ve learned two things. When this is all over, it’ll be like receive my first Holy Communion again, only this time I’ll actually know what’s happening. From this experience I’ve also learned that true Love is worth waiting, and worth suffering for.
Saint Paul says in Romans that someone might occasionally have the courage to die for a righteous person, but Jesus loved and died, not just for His apostles, His faithful disciples, and His friends, but also for the men who killed Him, the thousands who have walked away through the centuries, the people who have done unspeakable things, for every rebellious teenager, every militant atheist, every confused agnostic, and even for me. To Him, I’m worth the Cross, and to me, He’s worth the “house arrest,” the tears, the boredom, and the waiting, no matter how long I have to wait.
What I think can escape a lot of people is that the Mass is a sacrifice. We are taking part in Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, and uniting ourselves to that Sacrifice as His mystical Body. Because we take communion at almost every Mass, it usually doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. Having to stream it and not being able to receive Him is starting to make it feel like a real sacrifice. Across the board, in many religions, the center of worship is sacrifice.
Jesus is called the Lamb of God, referring to the Passover Lamb. At Passover, the ancient Jewish people would take a lamb into their house and care for it for a week before sacrificing it to God and eating it. They had to make sure it remained unblemished, which meant caring for it almost like a pet. The point was to grow some affection for it. I have known the Lord for fewer than ten years, but but I have a real affection for Him, and though I know He’s still right here, I do feel a kind of absence, and I think that’s the point. He already knows everything about us, but I think we don’t always know ourselves so well. I thought at first this was, in part at least, His way for testing our faith. That doesn’t exactly make sense, though. I think it’s more likely that this is His way of showing us a clearer picture of who we are and what our priorities and affections are. The longing hurts, but the second-first Communion will be so worth it.