Persons, places and things: In communion with Jesus


By Barb Arland-Fye


Father Apo Mpanda asked the three children, eager to receive their first Communion, to join him in front of the sanctuary of Our Lady of the River Church in LeClaire. As a choir member, seated just off to the side of the sanctuary, I could see expressions of anticipation, curiosity and nervousness on the faces of the two girls and one boy.

Our pastor delivered his homily, face to face with the first communicants. The content of his homily and his interaction with these kids made a lasting impression, at least on me! He began by exaggerating the number of years (about 100, he kidded) since his first Communion and then shared a poignant story of an experience he had as a young priest.

As he prepared to administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to a dying man who had fallen away from the Church, the man said he wasn’t in communion with Christ. He wanted to receive the Eucharist. Father Apo left the hospital to go to church to get the Eucharist. After the dying man received the Eucharist, he told the priest that he could die now because he was in communion with Jesus.


The Eucharist connected the dying man to Christ. The Gospel reading for April 28 (John 15:1-8) also shows the connection between Jesus and the faithful, Father Apo said, reminding us that the branches must remain connected to the vine, which happens through participation in the Eucharist. “I am the vine, you are branches,” Jesus says. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”

Bishop Robert Barron observed in his Gospel reflection for the day, “Jesus declares that he is the vine and we are branches. He is the power and energy source in which we live. This vine and branches image is closely related, therefore, to Paul’s metaphor of the Body of Christ.”

Father Apo told the first communicants that they need to come to Mass each week to receive the Eucharist to remain in communion with Jesus. Receive the Eucharist with the same excitement as if receiving it for the first time. While he spoke directly to those three children, his message applies to all of us. We should receive Communion with the same anticipation as when we received our first Communion years ago!

He reminded the children how to hold their hands to receive the precious body of Christ, their cupped hands serving as the crown for Christ the King. If you open your hands, “Jesus will run away,” he said. That vivid visual image resonated with the children.

Each of us may need an occasional reminder about the gift of the Eucharist so that our reception does not become rote. My role as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion heightens my awareness. When I say, “The body of Christ,” to each person, I see the eyes of Christ in their eyes. It is a powerful, moving experience. As I receive the body of Christ, I say to myself, “You are a gift to me. Please help me to be a gift to others.”

Witnessing the children receiving their first Communion with their families was another powerful experience for me of a community of faith in communion with Jesus.

(Contact Barb Arland-Fye at

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