Eye Opening Experiences

Alleluia! The Easter season and spring are fully upon us! Much of nature has been dormant through the dark and cold of winter, preparing itself to grow and flourish in the warmer days of spring. We, too, have spent the days and weeks of Lent reflecting on our lives as Catholics and our relationship with God. There may have been days in that Lenten journey that seemed dark and cold as we acknowledged where we fall short in our lives as followers of Christ. Hopefully that special time of reflection, sacrifice, prayer and repentance has given us what we need to grow in our relationship with Christ and to completely engage in the Easter season with hearts that are renewed.

Just as we experience personal growth during this life-giving season, the Catholic Church and our community grows and is strengthened as we welcome new members to the faith and we celebrate the various sacraments of initiation. Two weeks ago, during the Easter Vigil, we welcomed Deb O’Connell as she was fully received into the Church through participating in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. This Sunday we have 21 young people participating in the Sacrament of Confirmation at the St. Paul Cathedral and we celebrate as they become fully initiated members of the Church.  Also this Sunday, during the 11:00 Mass, we have a beautiful baby boy, Lucas Thomas Halbert, being baptized into our Catholic family and we have several more babies scheduled for Baptism in the upcoming weeks! It is truly a time to celebrate and welcome the new life we find in ourselves, in St. Peter’s community and in our Catholic family around the world.

In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus’ appearance to two of his disciples. Just prior to this passage, we are told that these two disciples were walking to the village of Emmaus and Jesus appeared before them. Jesus walked with them, but they did not recognize Him. Jesus does not make himself known to them until later that evening when they are all gathered at the table. Jesus says the blessing and breaks the bread. “With that their eyes opened and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:31) It was in the breaking of the bread that Jesus was made known to the disciples and it is the same for us. Over the next couple of weekends, we have 25 children who will be coming to the table for the first time. These children will experience Jesus in a new way. We pray that their “eyes be opened” and they too can recognize Jesus as He walks with them throughout their lives.

One of the many blessings that God has given to me is the opportunity to be with these children as they prepare for this very special encounter with Jesus. As their “special” day gets closer, I see their excitement grow. Some get nervous and worry they will do or say something wrong when they actually receive Holy Communion for the first time; others are extremely excited because of the new clothes they get to wear or for the family party that is planned to celebrate their day. Regardless, every child approaches Eucharist with anticipation and the awareness that they are receiving Christ. I know that after having received the Eucharist so many times in my life, I do not always come to the table with this same beautiful anticipation and a full awareness that I am receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. Seeing the children’s excitement and joy is always a wonderful reminder to me of how truly amazing it is that Jesus came to live among us and died for us. I should not be taking His death and resurrection for granted!  I should be feeling in my heart and acknowledging in my head that Jesus gave us this Sacrament the night before he was crucified. He died so that each of us can have eternal life. By receiving His Body and Blood, Jesus is within me so I have the strength and courage to spread the message he taught when he was incarnated.

My hope and prayer for each of us is that we all come to the table with joy, anticipation, and the true desire to have Jesus within us. Hopefully, as we watch these young children, we too can have this “eye-opening” experience and recognize Jesus before us, beside us and within us. Let us continue to celebrate the new life and growth of this Easter season.

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