“This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?” Jesus’s disciples said over 2,000 years ago in reference to the Holy Eucharist. For human beings, it seems that those things most lofty and beautiful are often “hard”. This is because too often our understanding is bound up within ourselves. Our world revolves around material things that one can see. What our minds and senses perceive becomes the “end all be all”. The Eucharist therefore challenges our presumptions. It asks that we empty ourselves and rely on Christ alone and truly open up to what is divine, unseen and incomprehensible. It is a call to participate in Jesus Christ’s very life, through whom all things were made.
As we ponder and accept the Eucharist, as true body and blood of Christ- God and Man, our hearts, once enveloped in sensual things become pried open. We experience a new avenue of love. This is why such a sacrament takes the center of our faith. In the words of Paul the Apostle: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26). In another place, “I am with you always.” (Matt 28:20). Yes, it is a leap of faith to believe in something so remarkable and bizarre, but it is often on the unexpected journey that we find love.
Unfortunately, belief in the Eucharist is a point of disagreement and contention amongst those who follow Christ. For some reason or another, many Christian groups deny that Holy Communion consists of the body and blood of Christ. These result from varying interpretations of the Bible removed from the early Church Fathers who followed after the apostles. Without going into a theological and historic apologia for belief in the “real presence” I want to explain from the Bible and common sense why Christians cannot afford to disbelieve. After all, we do not share the same historical views or theologians, yet we share the same Bible and reason given as God’s gift to men.
Let us say one is sick and goes to the doctor who tells him to take iron pills for a certain condition. What the patient receives is a bottle of white pills, labeled “Iron”. Without scientific equipment for analysis, he is incapable of knowing what the white pills actually contain. It doesn’t look like the metal known as iron. No, he must take the word of the doctor and the label of the bottle. Moreso, without the medicine, he will not get better. He must take it.
The man who is enslaved by sin and doomed to death, takes recourse to the Divine Physician. He is told, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” (Jn 6:54). He is given a sliver of bread and a sip from a chalice of wine. It doesn’t look like Jesus’s body and blood. Taking the word of Jesus who says “my flesh is meat indeed.” (Jn 6:55) and the written prescription of the Bible, he receives the food with faith. And moreso must do so lest, “he has no life within him.” (Jn 6:53). If we put our trust in earthly doctors, why do we not trust the Divine Physician through whom the earth and all the medicines on it were made? Without scientific knowledge we have no way of knowing what is in our pills and syrups and without pure faith which searches the things of God, we will never know the real presence. But remain hopeful for God enlightens even the most illiterate and sinful! Unlike costly medicines only accessible for the very rich, this medicine of immortality is available for all. We have only to believe and repent- and the very life of Jesus Christ is ours. Who wouldn’t long for such a gift!
This gift is one given out of incomprehensible love. For if it is so unbelievable to say Jesus gives us his own flesh then it is also unbelievable that he was born of a virgin, is true God, died for our sins and rose again the third day. Jesus breaks our presumptions. He shatters our shells of selfishness. He replaces all the weakness inside us with his life.
Why deny it? To me, the Eucharist is the very love and thirst of God for men’s souls. Personally it baffles me why anyone would call it a mere symbol. My own life was shattered and blown open by a realization that there could be a God who loves so greatly as to be consumed by us. All theology aside, a denial of the real Eucharistic presence seems like a denial of love. One does not place a gift back into the arms of the giver and say “You are not really giving this to me.”
Every time someone says “It can’t possibly be real, come on, it’s obviously just bread and wine,” they put a stopper on God’s love. They are saying what God can’t and can’t do and even worse, dictating the manner in which he loves.
This makes me believe the Devil’s proudest work is to get men to disbelieve in God’s Eucharist. While God’s feast is the very love of his Son, Jesus Christ, the devil’s feast is our starvation. What is offered under the pretext of rationality or spiritualism is a most-dreadful robbery. The Devil lacks any power to stop the Sacrament from being made on the altar into that same body and blood which put him to shame. Therefore, he seeks to plunder the priests who give it and destroy the people’s belief in it. If one could deny the sacrament out of being a “true follower of Christ” the better yet! Confusion if the enemy’s greatest snare. If he can’t outright steal or murder a Christian, he will confuse him to death.
Take these words to heart and ask yourself why God’s love should be limited? Does the Bible not say “God is love” and also “He who eats the flesh of the Son of Man has eternal life”? When Jesus said “the flesh profits nothing” (Jn 6:63), he meant our own logic and designs. He pointed out the Spirit- and not ourselves, as the means to understand. If you cannot understand through your fleshly eyes, ask that you may understand in the eyes of faith. As you imbibe medicine for bodily sickness, trust that Jesus takes even better care of you. He loves you more than you could ever imagine!