St Thomas’ Day, 3rd July 2020
Sermon: “I want some too,” is a cry often heard at the Communion Rail. Sadly all too often not by adults who are about to receive Holy Communion! “I want some too,” is most likely to be said by children in my experience, who are unable to receive Holy Communion. Hopefully this time of pandemic when people have not been able to receive Holy Communion will be an extra impetus to us to approach the altar next week with consideration and respect, soberly and aware we tiptoe forward not because of our own worth, but because of the gracious mercy of the Lord our God. “I want some too, but I know I’m not worthy in my own strength to have any.” I want to address the question on this Feast of Thomas the Apostle of why children cannot receive Holy Communion. This is not the universal practise of the Church: those in Eastern Christianity are quite accustomed to seeing the Lord’s Body and Blood given to babes in arms on spoons. For us, in Western Christianity it seems to have been a custom developed some six or seven hundred years ago, that those considered too young should not receive it. This is not a doctrinal statement, but a pastoral one. It is meant to be a sensitive help to us not to have young children receiving Holy Communion. What happens if, as often does happen with children, they spit out what they’re eating? This is the Body and Blood of Jesus. It cannot be thrown away. It must be consumed even if it has just been spat out by the child of a stranger. Children can receive Holy Communion from the age of seven – it is the age of reason, defined by the Church as being the age at which children start being responsible for the decisions they make. Children need to be admitted to Holy Communion before they can do this and we do this in this parish once they’re in secondary school. The change from primary to secondary school is such a large leap in a child’s life I hope it works better at this age as part of their adolescence rather than something they later rebel against as hormones start leaping around all over the place. Those children over the age of seven admitted to Holy Communion or Confirmed in other parishes are able to receive Holy Communion here. When children ask their parents “Why can’t I have the bread?” I think the best answer to the question is: “When you realise it’s not just bread but the Body of Jesus.” This requires faith and trust and something we should encourage our young people in. Jesus says, “My flesh is true good and my blood true drink,” (John 6:55) They’re gifts we are especially mindful of on this Feast of St Thomas the Apostle, who refuses to believe the disciples when they say they have seen the Lord. He wants proof. He wants to see the wounds Himself. He wants to touch them. The other St Thomas, not the one we’re celebrating today, but St Thomas Aquinas wrote of his namesake the Apostle, “I am not like Thomas, Wounds I cannot see, But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he; Let me to a deeper faith Daily nearer move, Daily make me harder Hope and dearer love.” St Thomas Aquinas makes this prayer to the “Godhead herein hiding,” Christ’s sacramental presence under the forms of Bread and Wine, which is consecrated at Mass. “Blessed are those,” Jesus says, “who have not seen and yet believe.” This is our vocation, my friends, to look beyond what is obvious and apparent to these earthly eyes and see what we can know only by faith. The existence of God, the fact of Jesus living on earth two thousand years ago, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church today, the existence of Heaven; there are arguments why all these things existing is perfectly logical and utterly beautiful. But there comes a point when you can’t win an argument about the life of God or indeed about what’s happening at the Mass: you need to have faith. That will in turn help you understand what it is you believe. So, we delay admitting children to receiving Holy Communion not because we’re sure they’ll understand it perfectly when they’re eleven, because I’m not sure we ever do fully here on earth. But we do delay it so we can try to explain that it is a wondrous mystery, that Christ is really present for His Church as He promised and not just in ideas or memories but substantially, physically. We can learn from kids to have their eagerness. “I want some too” is a cry we don’t hear often enough about faith. Lord, give us a bit more faith that we might believe. Amen.