If you and I went home today and turned on the evening news, and heard that Jesus Christ was going to appear at your town’s City Hall tomorrow morning at 10:00am., how many people do you think would show up to see him? Well, I think just about every Christian in the city would be there. They would show up to see him, touch him, and listen to him. And yet, we as Catholics, profess to believe that Jesus is truly present in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the world. But, do we truly understand that our Lord is really present in the Holy Eucharist?
Most non-Catholic Christians believe that the Eucharist is simply a memorializing and a symbolic remembering of what Jesus did at the Last Supper 2,000 years ago. Catholics on the other hand, believe that Jesus works through the Catholic priest (those with valid orders) at the altar, and in the spoken words of consecration, Jesus changes bread and wine into his body and blood. “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1374)…”
In the early Church, St. Paul tells the Christians at Corinth this: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ (1 Cor 10:16)?” Note that he St. Paul identifies the cup of wine, not as a “symbol,” but as the “blood of Christ” and the bread, not as a “symbol,” but as the “body of Christ.”
St. Paul goes on to instruct the Christians at Corinth even further, by saying; “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor 11:27-29).” If the bread and the wine were merely symbols, why does Paul stress so strongly the importance of the Christian being spiritually fit to receive them? In other words, a Christian should not have a mortal sin on his soul at the time of reception of the Eucharist, or he will bring judgment on himself. Think about it, can someone bring judgment on themselves from a “symbol?”
Because his Gospel was the last to be written, The Apostle John chose not to repeat the account of the words of consecration at last supper as in Matthew; “…this is my body…this is my blood… (26:26-28)”, Mark (14:22-24) and Luke (22:19-20). In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus promises the Eucharist. Jesus told the crowd of disciples that had been with him for 2 days; “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51).” His disciples started quarrel among themselves and said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat (John 52)?” They took Jesus’ word’s literally. In this 6th chapter and in Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, the original Greek word used for ‘body’ means physical flesh. And the original Greek word for ‘eat’ translates as ‘gnaws’ or ‘chews.’ This is not the language of metaphor or symbolic.
Jesus goes on to say; “ unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you (vs. 53).” He then says, “my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink (vs. 55).” And then his listeners, still taking his words literally, respond by saying; “This saying is hard, who can accept it (vs. 60)?” And then, Jesus, who is fully aware that his listeners are taking him literally, double’s down on his proclamation, by saying; “Does this shock you (vs. 61)?” Well, it must of shocked them. John then goes on to tell us that many of the disciples returned to there former way of life and no longer followed him. Now, if it took Jesus over 2 years to acquire all these followers, then why would he just let them go without clarifying his position. Think about it.
Jesus then turns to his 12 apostles and asks; “Do you also want to leave (vs. 67)?” And there’s St. Peter. He speaks up on behalf of the group and says; “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (vs. 68).”
As Christians, you and I believe that Jesus has the words of eternal life. If we believe that, then we must try and accept his plain and straightforward words, when he says; “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink (vs. 55).”
You know, many Christian faith traditions, at the close of their worship services, will offer what is known as an “altar call.” That is when the preacher or minister asks anyone in the congregation if they would like to come down the isle and receive Jesus. They would ask them to say the sinners prayer and then they would be able to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Well, we as Catholics have the privilege each and every time we come to mass, to walk down the isle with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and receive Jesus in the most intimate way we possibly can. To receive the “real” body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and all the graces that flow from it. Now, that is what is known as the “ultimate altar call!” Until next time, God bless.