“We started going to a new church and they have communion every week!”
My heart ached for my close friend as I listened to her discuss the Protestant church that she has been attending. While I was really happy that she had returned to church after a long absence, I knew that my friend didn’t really understand what she was missing – the Real Presence.
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). It is the foundation of the Church and the ultimate sacrifice and offering of thanksgiving to God. And while there is debate among Christians about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is notable that even Satanists acknowledge the consecrated bread and wine as Jesus Christ. The Bible and the writings of several Early Church fathers, dating back to A.D. 110 declare that the bread and wine are REALLY the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Most Christians are familiar with The Bread of Life Discourse in John 6. Verses 51-57 state:
“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.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”
Then John 6: 60-66 goes on to state:
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?”
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh, is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
If the bread and wine were just symbols of Jesus’ Body and Blood, why would so many of his followers leave? It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that Jesus tried to clarify his teaching to sway people to come back. Additional proof of the teaching of the Real Presence is in the writings of some of the earliest followers of Jesus. Catholic Answers shares several passages in this post.
The following is one such passage written by Justin Martyr in A.D. 151:
We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
The collective writings of the early Church Fathers is the main reason that my husband converted to the Catholic faith in 2006 and played a role in my father’s conversion in 2010. I knew nothing of the early Church Fathers until my husband began researching the faith. I was fortunate to have been raised Catholic by my devout mother, but it is amazing what the fresh eyes and ears of someone who is seeking truth can bring to light and deeper understanding. These historical writings just reconfirmed what a miracle and gift we have in the Eucharist.
Sadly, it has been reported that only about 30 percent of Catholics believe that bread and wine after transubstantiation is entirely Jesus- Body and Blood, soul and divinity. I guess this explains why it’s not so surprising that many have fallen away from the Church. Without an understanding of what the Church teaches on the Eucharist, it must be easy to live without it when one doesn’t know what they’re missing. I was happy to hear my parish pastor speak on this the other Sunday, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. If all of us Catholics truly believed in this mystery and reflected on the power of receiving the most precious Body and Blood of Jesus, we would all be radiating joy and peace. What an impact this would have on ourselves, our families, and the communities we live in!
When I first contemplated writing this post about why I’m staying in the Catholic Church, after all Catholics were encouraged to do so by Elizabeth Scalia (who was inspired by Tod Worner’s post), I considered typing up 100 Reasons Why I’m Catholic. I have experienced so many blessings and benefits because of this Church that offers numerous opportunities to continuously grow in a relationship with Jesus. I can’t imagine my life without the inspiring lives of the saints and their words of wisdom, the sacraments, beautiful devotions, and tradition that extends back to the time of Jesus and his apostles. I love being part of a faith that focuses on the dignity of each person and values all life. Maybe I will write that post someday, but the one thing that matters the most is the Holy Eucharist.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about the Real Presence from those who are far more knowledgeable than me, check out The Lamb’s Supper by well-known Catholic convert, Scott Hahn, and The 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn.