Thursday, April 5, 2012

No - we're not canibals...

John 6:55-59  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
John 6:53  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Luke 24:30-31  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 

 It's very clear here that Jesus is saying that his flesh and blood provide spiritual nourishment.  Not just as the flesh and blood itself, but in the action of feeding and drinking of his flesh and blood.  In the book of Luke in the walk to Emmaus, Jesus revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of the bread.  They did not recognize Jesus until that very moment.  In all scriptural studies, you have to look at the context and the theology and why the author chose to reveal certain aspects of Jesus' life within the text.  This story clearly acknowledges that Jesus had resurrected, the disciples knew and felt his presence but it was not made known until he broke the bread. 

Catholics continued this celebration from the time of the resurrection until today.  We see even in the book of acts and in the letter from St. Paul to the Corinthians how the celebration of the Mass had already begun. 

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 

This is significant for 2 reasons...  1.  Paul never met Jesus.  Shortly after Jesus resurrected, Paul persecuted the Christians.  His persecution led to the first martyr St. Stephen.   Acts7:58-60 then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep."  - Paul didn't meet Jesus, but through his conversion, he began to study scripture, and experience the Catholic mass even in his day.  In his studies, he even picked up the language which brings me to the second reason this is significant...  The words he is using in the book of Corinthians are the same words we use today in our Catholic mass. By the time he writes the letter to the Corinthians, the mass had already begun and was being celebrated.  

Here's another scripture

Acts 2:42-47 "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."

So for all Christians, this understanding of the celebration of the last supper should make sense right?  We want to talk about "Being saved" - to me, this states that these actions lead us to salvation...  The first scriptures I quoted in John are talking about eating the flesh of the son of man and drinking his blood, and how you should do it, or you are lifeless.  How are we as Catholics so chastised for following through with what scripture tells us?  Why is our tradition so "crazy" to others when it's very clear from the above scriptures we're doing as we are called.  I would say because their theology is different from that of scripture.  Their theology has the Eucharist being a symbolic act - much like how a statue symbolizes something else but has no actual value.  As a Catholic, we believe the Eucharist truly becomes Jesus Christ incarnate.  

So does that mean we're cannibals like some would like to claim in order to diminish and discriminate against our apostolic tradition?  No - because they are misunderstanding the theology behind the Eucharist.  Here are the key points... 

1.  Scripture clearly defends our position of receiving the Eucharist as the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  He does not say "this is a symbol of my body"  or "this is like my body"...  He says "THIS IS MY BODY" THIS IS MY BLOOD".  

2.  The Eucharist was believed even by the early apostles and disciples to be more than just a symbol or an act to remember Jesus.  They already believed that when you receive the Eucharist, it's equal to receiving Jesus Christ within you. 
1 Corinthians 11:27-30Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

 3.  The Eucharist is not the Jesus that walked the earth before his resurrection.  The Eucharist IS the RESURRECTED Lord.  This is the Jesus that had risen from the dead.  He was a different form from before.  He is now able to change forms, change the way he looks.  He's able to appear and disappear.  Luke 24:31  Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!  also see John 20:19 with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
This is the resurrected Lord we receive at the mass.  This Jesus doesn't have to die again.  This Jesus is now transformed.  When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the risen Lord who is able to change forms.

4.  Want some more recent proofs?  Here is a website that explains several Eucharistic miracles.  There have been times when the wine turned to real and physical blood, and before people's eyes, the Eucharist began to bleed.

5.  So why are we called to go to mass every week?  We're in need of Christ's spiritual nourishment through the Eucharist.  "Unless you eat and drink of the flesh of the son of man, you have no life within you".  The longer you go without receiving the Eucharist, the more you are missing out on the incredible gift of his true presence. 

You can connect to Jesus through Scripture and receive graces through other ways, but the primary way our Lord gives us grace is through the reception of the Eucharist, and the other sacraments.  For a Catholic, the Eucharist is the SOURCE AND THE SUMMIT.  Yes, the homily is nice, and leads our minds and hearts to the Lord, but even the greatest homily, talk, lecture, or preaching can't physically bring Jesus into our midst.  

Here's the way I personally look at it... 

Other churches focus on the pastor, and his ability to preach and inspire through his words and quotations of scripture.  As a Catholic, we have the same scriptures.  We have inspiring words and preaching of our pastor.  The difference is our focus is not on the pastor and his reflection of Jesus - but on Jesus himself present among us in the Eucharist.  In the Catholic liturgy - it's focal point is NOT on the "talk" but on the Liturgy of the word (Scripture) and the liturgy of the Eucharist (the consecration).  Liturgy when done well will emphasize the things.  

The mass is about community - receiving the Lord - and then most importantly, taking Jesus Christ within us to the world around us.  As we approach Easter, we reflect on several things.  We experience his call to be a servant of all in the washing of the feet.  We are given the Eucharist in his last supper.  In his sacrificial death and resurrection, we are given the incredible gift of Grace and the ability to saved and inter the gates of heaven.  As the tomb is rolled away on Sunday morning, may you find Jesus Christ awaiting your arrival.  As you receive the Eucharist on Sunday morning, may you find his presence irresistible. 


  1. I've had people ask me that same question and I've never been able to answer it as eloquently as you did!

  2. Catching up on your blog, this one is outstanding!