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It may be a hard request to obey, but all Christian denominations understand and agree with it. No one argues that it's a bad thing to love one’s neighbor, or that Jesus' words are open to interpretation. His intention was very clear: Love thy neighbor.
But When He Said…
What puzzles Catholics is that non-Catholic Christians don't accept one of His other very straightforward commands.
At the Last Supper, Christ gave the bread to His disciples and told them to take and eat it, “for this is My body.” (Matthew 26:26) He then gave them the cup of wine, telling them to drink of it, “for this is My blood...” (Matthew 26:28)
He adds another command: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
...What He Meant Was….
When Christ told us to love one another we believe he meant we were to love one another.
So we believe that when He told us to eat His body and drink His blood in remembrance of Him – He wanted us to eat His body and drink His blood in remembrance of Him.
Christ stated clearly what he wanted us to do. We don’t see anything to interpret here.
Why do non-Catholic Christians, who believe in the same New Testament as us, see only symbolism in the bread and wine? Jesus asked us to partake of His flesh and blood, not eat and drink tokens.
And We Catholics Care Because…?
Why does it bother Catholics so much that other Christian denominations don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?
We're sad that our brothers and sisters in Christ are missing out on such a big part of His message of salvation.
Before going up to Jerusalem to be crucified, Christ had already said the following to the people in the synagogue at Capernaum:
“Anyone who does eat My flesh and drink My blood has eternal life and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me and I live in that person.” (John 6:54-56 The New Jerusalem Bible)
Christ didn’t ask us to eat pretend flesh and pretend blood. He was making it clear that we were to eat His real flesh and drink His real blood to gain eternal life, and be living in us.
Yes, it’s a hard concept to grasp. And the apparent cannibalism of it turned many disciples away from Christ.
But here is Peter’s reaction: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life and we believe;” (John 6:68-69 The New Jerusalem Bible)
So why don’t all Christians believe the message of eternal life that Christ so plainly stated? Again, it’s puzzling to Catholics that our Christian brethren believe a half-truth when it comes to the Eucharist.
All Christians believe that Christ rose from the dead. So why is it impossible for us to believe that He turned bread and wine into His body and blood, not only during the Last Supper but that He does the same at Holy Mass? For nothing is impossible to God. (Luke 1:37)
As Catholics we believe that the priest in persona Christi Capitis – acting in the person of Christ - turns bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This is what He asked us to do, and this miracle takes place during every Mass.
There have been 126 Eucharistic miracles in which the host became flesh and began to bleed. Here is a video of one of them.
Scott Hahn in his book First Comes Love speaks thus about partaking of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ during Mass, which he calls the New Covenant meal:
“Our kinship with God is so real that His very blood courses through our bodies. We assimilate His flesh into our own........ In our communion of flesh and blood with Jesus, we receive the grace….to live and die as Jesus lived and died.”
Christ wants the whole world to partake of His body and blood to become Him and be saved. If you don’t believe in the Real Presence, I sincerely hope that this post has, in some small way, helped to clarify why we Catholics believe in it. And why we wish all Christians did.
I welcome your comments!