This article was originally published on Beloved Dreamer by Emily Capps (alumnus of Franciscan University of Steubenville). Please be sure to visit her website for more outstanding content!
For those of you who aren’t Catholic, I just wanted to share with you (and my fellow Catholics) one of the reasons that I LOVE being Catholic. During quarantine, I’ve missed going to Adoration (prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the bread that we truly believe is the Body of Christ) and Mass. At times, I have seen the Holy Spirit do incredible things during Adoration at my university just because so many are open to Him: many crying, some even laughing. At one retreat in particular, during praise and worship and prayer teams, the Holy Spirit worked miracles, I’m not kidding! I saw dozens faint on the ground. I heard several speak in foreign languages I could not identify, which they had not known before (like the work of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost!). I listened to the testimony of so many who had spiritual experiences that changed their lives.
It saddens me that many people don’t get to experience these incredible, powerful mysteries.
When I took a theology class several summers ago, I was assigned to write a discussion post on a scripture verse that Catholics and other Christians interpret differently. I chose to discuss the verses surrounding one of the most important beliefs of our Faith: the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ. Many believe that Jesus meant this only as a sign of His Sacrifice, but I wanted to share with you why we believe that He meant it literally.
To clarify, I am not judging anyone who believes differently; but I am saddened by it, because many of the reasons people dislike Catholicism are based on pure misunderstandings. I don’t intend to explain the whole of Catholicism here, but simply to share a brief overview of why we believe in the Eucharist for those who are open to hearing it.
So, let us take a look at this passage from John chapter 6:
Christ said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51).
The Jews did not want to accept this, asking: “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus did not clarify that this was metaphorical or symbolic, but only reiterated:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, … He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life … For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats 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 he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me”John 6:52-57
Why would Jesus repeat this point so many times, if not to reiterate that He meant that His “flesh is true food”? And why, when even some of the Apostles doubted, saying “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60), His response was that “there are some of you who do not believe” (John 6:64)?
Thus, we believe that when Christ was breaking the bread at the last supper, and He said “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19), that He truly meant it.
Still, there are other reasons to believe in the Eucharist. One is that it does not go against charity, but builds up love for God and neighbor, so would be in accordance with what we already know about God. Some may protest: Wouldn’t eating Christ’s body be wrong? Would that not be sacrificing Christ again? But it is important to understand that we are not sacrificing Christ again, but are making that one sacrifice present to us in this current time. This is possible because God is not subject to the constraints of time. Seen this way, it does indeed build up love for God. It brings us into intimate communion with Him, and through Him with each other as members of His one body (Isn’t that incredible?!)
But we have one more reason to believe in the Eucharist: faith in the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Our beliefs are based not only in the Word of God in the Scriptures, but also the Word of God passed down from the apostles. We can trust Tradition because we know that we can trace a direct line from the Bishops of the Catholic Church back to the Apostles (only the Apostles could appoint Bishops, who were the only ones who could appoint other Bishops, etc., passing on the Faith). We celebrate the Eucharist because the Apostles themselves (those who stayed with Jesus and became His Church) celebrated the Eucharist. We can trust God’s Church, because Christ elected Peter the first Pope and promised that the Church would not be overpowered by the Devil and his lies:
“And so I say to you, you are Peter [which means rock], and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”Matthew 16:18-19
But perhaps more on that topic another day.
(If anyone wants to know more about this or anything about Catholicism, feel free to message me! I’m passionate about the Faith and am studying for my masters in Theology now, so I would be happy to share some of what I know and what I’ve experienced. I can’t promise I’ll have all the answers, but I could try to find out!)
God bless and keep you!