When the Hebrew people were preparing to leave Egypt, the Lord instructed them to slaughter the best lamb from their flocks and to paint their doorways with its blood, so that the angel of death would pass over their houses as he went through the cities of the Egyptians, striking the first born son of each family. The lamb was the ransom of the people.
Ransom, of course, makes us think of a kidnapping. Someone kidnaps another person and demands, from their family, friends, or government, a payment – a ransom – in exchange for the safe return of the kidnapping victim. The Hebrew people had been kidnapped by the Egyptians, forced into slavery. The blood of the spotless lamb became the ransom payment for their return to their God and to their native country.
In the second reading today, St. Peter tells us that we have been ransomed as well. We have not been kidnapped or held in slavery like the Hebrew people, but we have been in the slavery of sin, from which Christ has come to set us free. We were ransomed not by the best lamb from the flock, but by the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
On the Cross, Jesus paid the ransom for our sins with His death, pouring out His most precious blood for us. And today, for the first time, He shares that most precious blood with our first communicants. The spotless lamb that the Hebrew people sacrificed, and whose blood preserved them from the angel of death, was the source of a feast. Today is also a feast, in which Jesus gives us not the roasted meat of the Passover lamb, but His very own Body and Blood. What we do today is not symbolic – it is real.
We heard in the Gospel about the disciples who met Jesus on the road but did not recognize Him. Like them, we too are looking for Jesus. Many times, we look for Him in the wrong places because of our sins, but we give thanks to Him for forgiving all the sins that we confess, which is why our first communicants had their first confessions as preparation for this holy day. We should follow the example of these young ones in confessing our sins and approaching Jesus in Holy Communion with a pure and clean heart.
Those disciples who met Jesus on the road finally recognized Him when they sat down to dinner together and He broke the bread. Today, we too will recognize Jesus in the bread that is broken and given for us, which isn’t really bread at all, but is Jesus’s true Body and Blood. However, we also read in the Gospel that once the disciples recognized Jesus, He vanished. We won’t be able to see Jesus today. When the priest pronounces those sacred words, “This is my Body, this is my Blood,” we will not see Jesus on the altar. We must make an act of faith in Jesus’s real presence, to believe with all our hearts that He is really and truly present in Holy Communion. Even though we can’t see Him, He is truly there.
Finally, we also heard in the second reading that we should conduct ourselves with reverence during our time on Earth. We should all be inspired by the reverent example of these first communicants. Each of us should desire to receive Holy Communion with the same love and devotion with which they approach our Lord’s most holy Body and Blood for the first time today. Dear children, never forget the love for Jesus that you have in your hearts today. Every time that you come forward to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, stir up all of your love for Him, and invite Him to come dwell in your soul. Today, Jesus’s true home is in your hearts.