They were given four years of faith instruction, a camp to prepare them and a day of preparation to receive the sacrament of reconciliation before the big celebration of First Holy Communion on the 12th October, 2014. In return, Fr. Martin Arlando, the parish priest of Church of Divine Mercy (CDM), made one request of them and that was to animate the gospel of the day, The Parable of the Wedding Feast, (Matthew 22:1-14) before his homily at the 9 am mass.
And so they performed a skit. The king sent out an invitation but they did not come giving various reasons such as Having tuition, meeting up with friends, visiting grandma and busy playing computer games. When all others were invited, they came but one refused to wear a garment given to her. She was expelled and the congregation was told that although we are invited to go to heaven we must be deserving to enter heaven. They then posed the question to the congregation, “What have you done to be deserving to enter heaven?”
In his homily, Fr. Martin related a story about sick little Nalie who was visited by a priest who asked her what was Holy Communion. She replied that Jesus rests on her tongue and then goes to her heart. Similarly, we become Christ-like when we received Holy Communion. Fr then asked the first communicants if they would continue to come for communion each Sunday, week after week. And what if their parents don’t go for mass? They were to reach out to the BEC leaders. If the leaders did not help them, then they were to report back to him. This is because Jesus wants us to receive Him as often as we can.
In his homily to the congregation, Fr repeated the same question posed by the children. What have you done to deserve heaven? Many were invited to the party, just like us. Do we ignore the invitation with excuses and set aside the abundant providence of God. For admission into heaven it is necessary that live lives worthy of the Kingdom. This is related to the Second Reading by St. Paul (Phil 4:12-14; 19-20) who relished abundance as well as hunger and other adversities.
Fr Martin went on to relate the story of a fighter pilot of serving during World War II. Lt. Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour in 1942 defending U.S.S Lexington against 9-twin wing Japanese bombers. He brought down five of them and damaged the sixth before reinforcements arrived. His feat was declared as … one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation … The international airport at Chicago in the US is named after him. “Butch” was the son of the infamous “Easy” Eddie O’Hare, the attorney and business partner of Chicago mobster, “Scarface”Al Capone. Eddie had enormously benefited financially and lived in a big mansion. But he was devoted to his son whom he could give everything except a good name and a good example. He eventually had a change of heart and testified for the Internal Revenue Service against Capone for income tax evasion. For this sacrifice he was later gunned down in a street in Chicago. For Eddie offering his son a good name was more important than all the riches he could lavish on him and in doing so, rectify some of the wrong he had done. He gave his son integrity to become someone who cared for his fellow man more than himself. Similarly, we must also come prepared to the party dressed in a life of integrity and virtue.
Fr asked the congregation to be prepared for the banquet. The heroes of God’s kingdom are often ordinary people who have repented from their failings and try to do what is good in their lives. We are greatly blessed as we have been called to the banquet because of our baptism. We often lose sight of our final destination because of daily distractions. So he asked the people present to put on the baptismal robe which is our wedding garment clothe in service, obedience and love. He appealed to them to get involved in the BECs and work for Jesus in our communities. So by witnessing Jesus we respond to His call and reflect His body and blood, soul and divinity in our lives for one another.
Towards the end of mass, the First Communicants each went up to the altar to receive a gift and certificate from Fr Martin while they blessed him with a sign of the cross on his forehead. They also lined up at the church entrance at the end of mass to receive the blessings of those who attended mass.
30th October, 2014