Again, congratulations to you boys and girls who are to receive our Lord in Holy Communion for the first time in just a few minutes; I’m sure you’re really excited.  You girls look so pretty in your white dresses and you boys look very handsome, too!  Do you know why so many of you are wearing white today?  When was the first time many of you wore white to church?  You don’t remember it, but for most of you it was when your parents and godparents brought you to church to be baptized.  You were dressed in white because it symbolized the fact that you would be cleansed of your original sin and given new life by water and the Holy Spirit.  Through your baptism – the first sacrament of initiation – you were welcomed into the family of God. I had the privilege of baptizing some of you; what a great joy that was for me, your pastor.

You are wearing white today because you are about to receive the second sacrament of initiation and will now be welcomed around the Lord’s Table to receive God in the person of Jesus who offers himself to us in Holy Communion.  What a special moment it is for you – and for all of us – as you receive the Body of Christ and become one with all of us who are the Body of Christ.  Congratulations and welcome!  It is so fortunate for you to receive your First Holy Communion during Easter Season which celebrates the new life that God promises us through the death and Resurrection of his Son, Jesus.  As you know, Jesus offered the apostles their First Holy Communion at the Last Supper just before he died for us and rose to new life.  In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus assure his apostles while they were together for the Last Supper.  They were all upset because Jesus had just told them that he was going away.  He was predicting his own death on the cross.  But, he assures them, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”  He goes on to tell them that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house.  This is heaven he’s talking about, where the faithful will be welcomed around the Lord’s Table for eternity.  And then, in answer to a question that Thomas, one of the disciples, asks, Jesus even gives them directions to this place.  “I am the way, the truth and the life,” he instructs them – and us.  He gets even more explicit, telling them that there is only one way to get there.  “No one comes to the Father except through me.”  No GPS can give us clearer directions.

Jesus – the way – has shown us the way through his life’s example, loving God and neighbor, always doing the Father’s will, caring for everyone, and especially for those with the greatest need – the poor, widows, lepers – all of those on the edge of society.

And, as we see in today’s first reading, the early Christians cared the most needy that they discovered in their midst – the widows – by coming together and working for the good of all.  As they were awaiting the time when they would be welcomed into the heavenly Jerusalem, they increased the number of believers in the earthly Jerusalem by their good example of following our Lord’s teachings – the way he had laid out for them.  That’s the truth that our Lord, Jesus, came to teach us.  It’s the way to a fulfilling life here and eternal life in that dwelling that Jesus has gone to prepare for each of us.

Many of you are already following the way Jesus has taught, reaching out to help the poor and needy in so many ways throughout the year.  You help  the parishioners in our sister parish, St. Martin de Porres, some of our own neighbors as well as people in Philadelphia through our Food for the Needy monthly collection and ongoing casserole making, to name just a few examples.

Our gospel today ends with Jesus’ astounding statement that those who do so will accomplish even greater works than he did himself.   What that means is that we can increase the effects of the work that he started 2,000 years ago right here and now, making his truth and life evident in our world today.  It’s a message that the entire world needs to hear and experience in every generation, including ours.

Today’s reading from the First Letter of Peter calls us to be living stones, built around Jesus, the cornerstone.  While natural stones are strong and solid, but lifeless, we are called to be strong and solid and alive in our faith.  And, Peter directs us to build upon the foundation that Jesus, the cornerstone, has laid so that we can be built into a spiritual house; there’s that image of a house again. 

And, we get the strength to do all of this hard work through the grace we receive in the sacraments, especially Holy Communion which gives us spiritual food.  Just as we need to eat often to keep our bodies strong and healthy, so we need to receive our Lord in Holy Communion often to feed our souls.  As you receive Holy Communion for the first time today, I encourage you to make sure that you join us regularly around the Lord’s Table so you will receive this spiritual food often.  This will help to prepare you to get to that place in God’s heavenly dwelling – and, in the meantime, to follow his Son, the way, the truth and the life, as we continue the work he began – right here and now in our world today.  Again, congratulations; I look forward to seeing you and your families here every Sunday to receive this necessary spiritual food, our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion!