Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 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; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

DEFENDING THE FAITH

Is The Eucharist Really Christ's Body and Blood?

By Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan
May 1995 issue of The People of God
Newspaper of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M.


AN ALARMING GALLUP POLL
Recently, a Gallup poll was taken on Catholic attitudes toward Holy Communion. The poll showed serious confusion among Catholics about one of the most basic beliefs of the Church.

Only 30 percent of those surveyed believe they are actually receiving the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.

29 percent think they are receiving bread and wine which symbolize the spirit and teachings of Jesus and, in so doing, are expressing their attachment to His person and words.

10 percent understand their action to be receiving bread and wine in which Jesus is present.

and 23 percent hold that they are receiving what has become the Body and Blood of Christ because of their personal belief.

Any well-informed Catholic will recognize that only the first option, chosen by the 30 percent, is true Catholic teaching. The other options represent various forms of Protestant belief.

As Archbishop, I am deeply concerned about the inaccurate and distorted views of the Eucharist apparently held by many of our people. I believe it is important to clearly understand the correct doctrine; then, to live according to that doctrine.

SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION
Our Catholic teaching that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus, not bread and wine, is clearly taught in the Bible and throughout the 2,000-year tradition of the Church.

John goes on to say that, even though many disciples would not accept this teaching and went away, Jesus did not attempt to bring them back by saying He was only speaking symbolically.
The teaching of Jesus in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel is very clear: "Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him" (John 6:53-56).
How does this change take place? It happens during the eucharistic prayer of the Mass.

At that time, the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, as the Church has always taught. Although they still look like bread and wine, they have, by divine power, actually changed into His Body and Blood. How can we know this? It requires faith. It is a mystery which, like love, we will never fully understand. The Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, His death and Resurrection are other mysteries which, along with the Eucharist, we will never fully comprehend in this life.

Catholic teaching on the Eucharist gives great inspiration and strength to believers. Jesus is really present and, under the appearance of food, nourishes us for our journey through life.

Our Protestant friends speak often and correctly of the need for a personal relationship with the Lord. What more personal relationship is there than to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus, than receiving Him with love and devotion? And, since the Eucharist takes place in the context of a community meal, we are also united with our brothers and sisters of the faith. To make the presence of Jesus only a "symbolic" one is, therefore, to strip the eucharistic celebration of its true meaning.

FAITH AND REVERENCE
A sound belief in the Eucharist moves us to some important practical conclusions. Since the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus, Catholics must have the utmost respect and reverence for these precious gifts.

We should not receive Communion if we are conscious that we are in a state of serious sin. Saint Paul makes it clear in the text from 1 Corinthians 11:27,29 quoted above - that we must not receive the Lord unworthily. Other than in crisis situations, where a perfect act of contrition can suffice, anyone who is aware of serious sin must receive the sacrament of penance before going to Communion.

Priests and catechists must not hesitate to teach this clearly to the people on a regular basis.

People who are married outside the Church are not supposed to receive Communion. They should approach the marriage tribunal to see if their marriage can be validated and, thereby, return to the sacrament. I know how difficult and painful it is for people who are not able to receive Communion; and I suffer with them. It can be of some comfort to know they may come forward at Communion time to receive blessings from a priest or other minister. (Non-Catholics and others not receiving Communion may also receive blessings.)

In a recent article, Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento notes a lack of respect for the Eucharist in recent years. I believe he is correct. We must not allow the simplification of the rites of the Mass, such as the reception of Holy Communion in the hand or while standing, to breed an informality that erodes our belief in the Real Presence. We must be careful to genuflect reverently when entering the church where the Blessed Sacrament is kept; or, at least to make a deep bow of respect. We have let sloppy language lead to a disrespect of the Eucharist. I call on all Catholics in our archdiocese to stop referring to Holy Communion as the "bread" or the "wine" rather than as "the Body of Christ" and the "the Blood of Christ."

A MATTER OF RESPECT
Respect for the Eucharist also means fasting for an hour before Communion, arriving on time for Mass, and not leaving early.

Respect for the Eucharist likewise means there should be no more than subdued conversation before and after Mass in the church. Even though many enjoy socializing, others are there to pray in the presence of the Eucharist and their rights should be respected.

Respect for the Eucharist means we will attempt to make visits to the church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament; pastors should make every effort to ensure that churches or Blessed Sacrament chapels are open for visitation. One of the most fruitful forms of prayer for a Catholic is that of praying before the Lord who is present in the tabernacle.

Respect for the Eucharist means that priests, deacons, and eucharistic ministers will treat the Body and Blood of Christ with utmost respect; and purify the Communion vessels reverently.

I also encourage more frequent use of the rite of Benediction and eucharistic devotions such as perpetual adoration with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I ask that vocations to the priesthood and religious life be a particular intention for such Eucharistic prayer.

TEACH THE TRUTH
I call upon pastors and teachers to review basic Catholic teaching on the Eucharist with their people. I urge Catholic parents to teach the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist to their children. We must recapture a well-deserved sense of the holy, an awareness of mystery as it relates to the Eucharist which has always been a part of our Catholic tradition.

5 comments:

Spence Ohana said...

Great blog post, very informative. I will definitely refer to this when I write part 4 of my Misunderstood series which is on the Eucharist. Thank you.

Michael Gormley said...

Thanks, Spence!

God bless you
Mchael Gormley

Mrs. A said...

I never really paid close attention to that scripture. It is definitely something to ponder for a while.

I have been reading up online about Catholic women. I have really been fascinated to study about biblical womanhood. But honestly, even if I wanted to start going to a Catholic church and get to know some older traditional women there, I couldn't because I don't drive and my DH would never approve.

How do 1Peter3 women in your church flourish? Do you know of any online? I have written a new post asking help but I made it indirectly because of two male followers I now have.

http://womenofgod-rosemi.blogspot.com/2010/11/female-soldier-for-christ-prayer.html

I do welcome any godly advice you might have from a males perspective would be greatly appreciated. I trust God with one eye open that you're trustworthy.


Thanks for all your kindness. I'll be reading your blog. And I pray God says to you one day, "Well done, good and faithful servant".

God bless you!

Mrs R

Michael Gormley said...

How do 1Peter3 women in your church flourish?

Dear Mrs A,
The women I know - mainly through a ROSARY group I attend - flourish quite well; most of them are very religious.

I am very involved with my Catholic faith; I attend Mass on a daily basis and so meet many women.

I'm also quite close to a couple of Catholic Nuns (sisters) who attend Mass on a regular basis.

I imagine you would be able to connect with Catholic women through the Catholic Blog Directory.


PS: Thank you for your kind and supportive comments.

GOD BLESS YOU
Michael Gormley

Mrs. A said...

I will check it out, thanks. :)