Greetings from Zurich, Switzerland! While visiting our family in Germany, my wife and I took a short side trip into Switzerland, which I’ll write about in the future. But while my wife is still sleeping in the hotel bed this morning, I thought I would write about a humorous incident that happened a few days ago.
The reason we came to Germany was that our Catholic daughter-in-law had invited us to attend our grandson’s first communion ceremony. We hadn’t seen him in five years so we jumped at the opportunity. He’s a very bright nine-year-old with just a little bit of a rebellious streak. He was none too happy about the preparations for the ritual including the practices he was required to attend and being fitted for an uncomfortable, new suit.
We arrived in Germany last Saturday as the family was busily preparing for the next day’s first communion ceremony and celebration. First communion appears to be a much bigger deal in Germany than in the States. Throughout the week, our grandson had received cards from relatives and neighbors filled with money that would eventually amount to 950 euros.
On Sunday morning, we drove to the church in a neighboring village for the special mass, which began at 9 a.m. The small church was packed and there was much pomp and ceremony for this occasion. We hadn’t been to a mass in decades and the vaguely familiar ritual saddened me because of its spiritual lifelessness. The time came for the group of about 20 children to receive their first communion and they were followed in line by about half of the people in attendance. Many of the children’s proud relatives had probably not been to a mass in months or even years and were committing a mortal sin by receiving communion.
The ritual finally came to a close at 11:30, two and a half hours after it began! We traveled back to the family’s house for a celebration which ended up including over twenty people. It was an all-day affair of delicious food and desserts that lasted until 7 p.m. Conversation turned to spiritual things a few times, and the consensus among the people we spoke to was that “being good” was the bottom line. Sound familiar?
After all the other guests had left, we all sat there, tired and full. It was then that our grandson stood up and pulled something out of his pocket to show to his German grandmother. I barely caught a glimpse of it. Could it be? Yes, it was the communion wafer the priest had given him! He hadn’t put it in his mouth at the time because he decided he didn’t care for the taste after having tried an “unconsecrated” wafer at a practice session. The entire celebration was for nought! Our grandson had not received his first communion!
I don’t mean any disrespect to our daughter-in-law or her family whatsoever. What they believe is what most people believe today when it comes to spiritual matters: some religious traditions and rituals mixed in with a heavy dose of “just be good”universalism along with a heaping tablespoon of agnosticism. The world’s people are blind to their need of the Savior. Receiving Jesus is NOT consuming a bread wafer. Receiving Jesus is accepting Him as Savior by faith. With the ritual successfully accomplished (sort of), our German family won’t be attending church again until Christmas, if then. No one has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thank you, Lord, for revealing to me my need for You. Please work in the hearts of our family members. Help us to share Your Gospel.