On that fresh spring day, I was anxious to get out of my white suit and clip-on tie. But with the house abuzz with family and friends, the day’s importance was beginning to dawn on me. I had just made my First Holy Communion, and my parents had pulled out all the stops.
Numerous guests, decked out in their Sunday best, were loitering within reach of the hors-d’oeuvres. Dad was firing up the barbecue in the yard not far from the badminton net. Then there was the dining room—it overflowed with presents for yours truly!
I had no idea any of this was coming.
One gift-box in particular caught my eye. For a little tyke like me it could only be described as HUGE. My benefactor was the rather unfamiliar next-door neighbor, who played catch with us on lawn-mowing days. Tearing through the wrapping paper, I found a model kit of the NASA Space Shuttle—with external tank, rocket boosters, launch pad, and all!
I could only conclude this was one of the most critical days of my life.
Of course, religious gifts came too, such as the gold cross from Grandma, nevertheless, at the time I hardly reflected upon what was religious and what wasn’t. It was just one splendid day.
But weren’t these worldly goodies an obstacle in some way to my appreciation of the superior gift I had received spiritually in the Eucharist? You might think so, but in fact the opposite was the case. I actually valued Christ’s interior gift more because of the outward festivities. I thought, “What must be worth celebrating so much?”
How cute, some might say, a little boy learns a religious lesson while eating cheesecake. But as young adult, I still had much more learning (and feasting) to do.
Feasts abound in the liturgical calendar, however before I joined the seminary, I celebrated few of them. In college, on the other hand, we’d party just because it was Friday night.
Once I discovered my vocation in the Church, on feast days I found myself immersed in festivity—a soccer game, rosary with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, big bundles of flowers in the chapel and heaps of homemade ice cream at table—and for the first time I knew WHY: we celebrate God’s interventions in human history and his goodness and glory reflected in the saints.
The external festivities invite me to contemplate the supernatural goods wrapped up in the mysteries celebrated. If we have been living Lent well, we have embraced fasting and sacrifice too, in order to unite ourselves to Christ Crucified.
But as Lent draws to a close, we do well to plan how we’ll celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection in our family. Didn’t Jesus himself say, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Mt 9:15). Pull out all the stops and the children (even the grown-up ones) will get the message: God is worth it!