First Holy Communion
Are You Ready?
We are on the edge of Autumn and, all around us, summer is shedding its verdant robes, as nature prepares to find a way through winter into springtime. Contemplating nature opens us up to the great rhythms of life. In life, everything arises, everything endures and everything fades. And perhaps there is a Parable here for us, as we stand at the edge of a new beginning in our Parish Community. Pope Francis, Bishop Philip and life itself, are calling us to a new vision that will transform our parish community, passionate about the Gospel and choosing to become intentional disciples of Jesus. Disciples who proclaim, in communion with the Catholic Church, a global message of Peace and Reconciliation.
The journey of faith cannot be traveled alone or in isolation. It is vital that friendship and communion are the two arms that hold us, and the two hands that guide us. As we travel together, we notice that the path is marked by touchstones which are there to strengthen, support and nourish us. Baptism, Reconciliation, Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination and the Sacrament of the Sick are given to us as gifts which are to be cherished. They are so precious, so necessary to our vocation as disciples of Jesus. If we were without them we might lose our way completely.
Any yet, our lived experience in our Parish has not been so good. So many people ask for Baptism and vanish without trace. A huge percentage of the children who make their first confession and first holy communion vanish without trace. Most of those who are confirmed vanish without trace. Couples who marry in our Church vanish without trace. Their invisibility is very visible! Their absence, a declaration that they have little or no understanding of what it means to belong to a community, to be part of the mission of the Catholic Church to follow Jesus, and to bring the Gospel of Life to a world shattered by violence, selfishness and greed.
Standing before this absence, we realised that what we are doing isn't working. It is true that we would always say yes to anyone who asked to drink from the sacramental well in our church. It is equally true that we also need to discern first, if the person asking to receive a Sacrament, is ready to do so.
'Being ready' means that the person belongs to the community and has an active presence in the life and mission of the Church. 'Being ready' means that they are trying their best to deepen their understanding of what they are asking for. 'Being ready' means bearing the weight of the responsibility which each Sacrament lays upon the heart of those who receive it, precisely as a deeper commitment to the work of Love, Justice and Peace. 'Being ready' means struggling with us to live the Love which lays down its life for others. 'Being ready' is not for the faint hearted or for those who think that saying, 'Jesus loves me' is a sound basis for a life, still less a life of discipleship.
My mind is clear. To those who think they have an automatic right to Sacraments. To those who imagine that they can receive Sacraments on their own terms. To those who think that they are consumers at a 'pick & mix' counter in the Catholic shop. To those who demand everything and contribute little or nothing to our Community and its Mission. To those who choose to walk away and remain silent in the face of the suffering of others. To those who abuse the church in any of these ways, what should I say?
It is my hope that by challenging and ending this permissive culture, our Parish Community will be better placed to fulfil its vocation to be a leaven for goodness in Bracknell and, side by side with the Universal Church, the World.
You want to receive and celebrate a Sacrament. Yes, but - are you ready?
Fr. Danny McAvoy