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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Eucharist: The Real Presence

I have unfortunately come across some anti-Catholics in my life who seem to take great delight in mocking the Eucharist. They have referred to it as “a wafer God” and to Catholics as “hunk of bread worshipers”. All of these people that I have heard this from are self proclaimed Christians. I have never heard an Atheist or Pagan mock Holy Communion. That is not to say, none do, it’s just that none have done so in front of me nor to me in email as some Christians have. So in this post, I will attempt to share how I understand the Eucharist. The first place we need to go to in our search to better understanding the Eucharist is Sacred Scriptures.
-Matt.26 "26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." 27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."
In Matthew 26, we see Jesus institute Holy Communion. He tells the disciples to take the bread and cup and to eat and drink them saying “this is my body” and “this is my blood”. He does not say “this SYMBOLIZES my body and blood” but “this IS”. Now let’s read what Luke shares about the Eucharist. In Luke 24, the tomb is found empty and the disciples remembered the words of the Lord saying “on the third day He would be raised again”. Two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus when they encounter Jesus but do not recognize Him. They speak with Him and tell Him about Jesus and all that has occurred then they invited Him to stay with them as the day was nearly over (verse 29). During dinner, Jesus took the bread and as soon as he broke the bread the disciples saw Him and recognized Him as Jesus. They quickly returned to Jerusalem and told the other disciples what had happened.
-Luke 24:35 "Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread."
The Apostle John’s account of the Eucharist is extensive and specific. John relates several times how Jesus says “this IS my body”, “this IS my blood”.
-John 6: 51 "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
-John 6 "53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him."
The Eucharist is “real food” as Jesus says in verse 55. Jesus knew this was a hard teaching for many to believe, so He repeated it several times and specified by saying “real”, not “symbolic”. Yet still, many who had been following Jesus could not accept this teaching and turned away from Him.
-John 6:66 “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
If Jesus meant the Eucharist as symbolic only, why didn’t He stop these disciples from leaving and explain it was only symbolic when they took it as literal? He didn’t stop them because it was literal. They were understanding Jesus’ teaching as literal, but they couldn’t believe it. They didn’t have the faith to believe Him that He could do that, make the bread and cup truly His flesh and blood. They couldn’t accept a literal interpretation just like Protestants today. Those who turned from following Jesus over the Eucharist being “real” food are the same as those today whom mock Catholics as I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The Catholic Church today is teaching the same as Jesus did in the Gospel accounts of the Eucharist.

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