HOLY LAND – During the month of May, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mgr William Shomali, General Vicar, and Mgr Rafiq Nahra, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, administered the First Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation to over 200 children from the various Latin parishes of the diocese.
“You have to be aware of the gift you are receiving today. It is something that will change your life,” said Mgr Pizzaballa during his homily in Saint Savior, in Jerusalem, where he administered the sacrament of confirmation to 33 boys and 19 girls. “After this, your very lifestyle should express your love for Jesus”. During his pastoral visit to the cities of Aboud and Ramallah, Mgr Pizzaballa also administered the first communion and the sacrament of confirmation to the children of the parish, to whom he said: “Life is about making decisions. And with today’s celebration, you are deciding that you want to be Christians. You are saying ‘yes’ to living according to the teachings of Christ.”
During one of his visits to Jordan, the Patriarch was also able to administer the first communion and the sacrament of confirmation to children from the parish of Irbid. The rest of the parishes in Jordan received the sacraments by Mgr Jamal Daibes, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan
All the children were prepared for the celebrations through weekly meetings spread during a two-month period, during which they learned about the spiritual essence of these sacraments and their importance regarding their path of faith. “To prepare the children for the sacraments, we concluded our weekly meetings with a Holy Mass. The objective was not only to focus on the two sacraments, but also on the Divine Liturgy, its significance, and its symbols. And before the official celebration, the children also received the sacrament of reconciliation, in order to be fully prepared to receive the Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit,” said Sr Shatha, a Rosary Sister who prepared the parish children of Ramallah. Usually, the preparation is done by either a catechist or a sister.
“Christ is present in all the Sacraments of the Church, which act as a channel of grace for us to encounter God’s holiness, mercy and love,” said Sr. Gretta, another Rosary sister, who prepared the children of the parish of Beit Jala. They received their first communion and confirmation from Mgr William Shomali, who also administered the first communion and the sacrament of confirmation in other parishes located in Palestine (Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beirzeit, Jifna, Mouqeibleh, and Taybeh).
In one of his homilies, Mgr Shomali compared the joy felt by the parish on this occasion to the joy that spread through the city of Samaria in Acts 08:08, when the city witnessed great miracles and healings because believers were filled with the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of the apostles’ hands. “Today, the same joy fills our hearts, as our sons and daughters are receiving the same precious gift of the Holy Spirit, which will guide, comfort and empower them to walk in the Spirit and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God,” said Mgr Shomali.
In Galilee, Mgr Rafiq Nahra administered the first communion and the sacrament of confirmation in the parishes of Shafa’amr, Nazareth, Haifa, Ramleh, Rameh, Reneh, Jaffa, and Jaffa of Nazareth, in addition to the parish of Zababdeh.
“Where there is communion and love, there is also joy,” said Mgr Nahra as he explained to the children the significance of the Eucharist, “the bread of life” (John 6:35). When we receive the body and blood of Christ, it unites us to His body, “the Church”, and “feeds our spirits to bear fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22)”.
He also connected the communion and the confirmation by saying that the act of Communion acted as “a continual renewal of the sacrament of confirmation,” where we receive “the Spirit of truth, power, and adoption.”