The Eucharist is What Truly Makes us Catholic

by Arthur Policarpio

In John 6:28-70, Jesus scandalized the Jews, including some of His own disciples, by claiming that whoever eats Him - the bread of life - will live forever: “I am the living bread which has come from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever. The bread I shall give is my flesh and I will give it for the life of the world.” (John 6:51). 

Although at first the Jews thought Jesus was merely speaking figuratively, eventually they realized that He was speaking literally: “The Jews were arguing among themselves, ‘How can this man give us flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52).  Even His own disciples and followers were scandalized: “After hearing this, many of Jesus’ followers said, ‘This language is very hard! Who can accept it?’ (John 6:61). 

It is important to note that at that point, Jesus did not attempt to clarify any misunderstanding, or explain to everyone that He was only speaking metaphorically.  He meant what He said literally - referring to the Eucharist, of course. As a result, “After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed Him.” (John 6:66). 

The Great Divide

The above passage of John is the clearest Biblical proof of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life”, He meant it literally - not metaphorically, as our non-Catholic brethren would interpret it.  The Holy Eucharist is not just a commemoration of the Last Supper.  It is Jesus Himself giving His Body and Blood for us to eat.

Unfortunately, just like the disciples in the above discourse who left Jesus, millions of Christians all over the world have chosen to believe in a different interpretation of the Eucharist.  For us Catholics, the Eucharist is Jesus Himself - when the words of consecration are pronounced by the priest during Holy Mass, the bread and wine turn into the real body and blood of Jesus.  Catholics believe in Transubstantiation - the transformation of the species of bread and wine into the real, bodily presence of Jesus.

Protestants, on the other hand, do not believe in Transubstantiation.  For them, the Eucharistic meal is simply a remembrance of the Last Supper, a reminder of the death of Jesus on the cross. The Eucharist is the greatest and most important point of difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Early Church Fathers

And yet, the early Church fathers clearly attest to their belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Justin Martyr said: "Not as common bread or 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 nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus."

Cyril of Jerusalem in the mid-300’s said: "Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy  of the body and blood of Christ".

Eucharistic Miracles

Numerous documented miracles also attest to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  One of the greatest documented and scientifically validated Eucharistic miracles is that of Lanciano, Italy in 700 A.D.  A Basilian monk entertained doubts regarding the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. 

One morning during Mass, when he came to the consecration, something unusual happened that made his entire body shake: The Host had turned into Flesh, the Wine had turned into Blood. Subsequent scientific tests done have shown that that the Flesh is real flesh, and comes from the muscular tissue of the heart. Both the Flesh and the Blood had the same blood type (AB).

Will you also go away?

Many of Jesus’ disciples left Him because of His insistence on the Eucharistic doctrine: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (John 6: 53-55).  Instead of clarifying Himself with the disciples who chose to left Him because of the above, Jesus instead turned to the Twelve: “Will you also go away?” (John 6:67). And in a beautiful profession of Faith in Jesus, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68-69).

Today, Our Lord likewise asks us: “Will you also go away?”  

Isn’t it that every time we neglect Jesus in the Eucharist - when we receive Him unworthily during communion, when we do not find time to pray before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, when we fail to give Him due reverence in the Tabernacle - we “go away” just like the disciples in the gospel passage? 

Let us respond as Peter did: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  May the Lord help us believe, love, and adore Him in His Most Precious Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist!

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