“I am sure you will never forget this day: your first encounter with Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist.”
That was the message delivered to the 245 boys and girls receiving first communion at Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Rakovsky, Bulgaria, on May 6, 2019. They traveled from all corners of the country for this sacramental occasion, with their proud and joyful families and friend. Anywhere in the world, a child’s first communion is a special event.
Of course, for these young Catholics, it will be remembered always not only for their first experience of the Eucharist but as an encounter with the Holy Father Pope Francis, who administered the sacrament. It’s the first time that the Holy Father administered personally First Communion to children during an Apostolic Journey.
“I am pleased to greet the young boys and girls who will receive their First Communion and their parents, relatives, and friends,” the Pope said. ‘To all of you, I offer the beautiful greeting exchanged in your country at Easter time: ‘Christ is risen!’ This greeting is the expression of our joy as Christians, as disciples of Jesus. We rejoice because, for love of us, Jesus gave his life on the cross and destroyed sin. He rose again and made us adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. We are joyful because he is alive and present among us, today and always.”
The Holy Father recalled for the young communicants the miracle of the faith, of Jesus, raised from the dead, accompanying the faithful, present in the Eucharist. He assured them that Jesus is alive.
“Now Jesus is alive and is here with us,” the Pope proclaimed. “That is why we can encounter him today in the Eucharist. We do not see him with our physical eyes, but we do see him with the eyes of faith.
“I am looking at you, dressed in your white robes. What a meaningful and beautiful sign. You are dressed for a celebration! First Communion is, above all, a celebration. We celebrate Jesus, who wants to remain always by our side. He will always be with us. This celebration was made possible also thanks to our parents and grandparents, our families and our communities, who have helped us to grow in the faith.”
The Pope also noted that by receiving their first communion, the boys and girls made it possible for the rest of those present to relieve the joy of the Eucharist and celebrate Jesus. Francis pointed out that when Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes it started with a child offering all that he had.
“Today you have made it possible for us to relive that joy and to celebrate Jesus, present in the Bread of Life,” the Pope said. “Some miracles can only take place if we have a heart like yours: a heart capable of sharing, dreaming, feeling gratitude, trusting and respecting other people. Making your First Communion shows that you want to be closer to Jesus every day, to grow in friendship with him and to lead other people to share in the joy he wants us to feel. The Lord needs you because he wants to work the miracle of bringing his joy to many of your friends and family members.”