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.

Friday, October 18, 2013

DEALING WITH CATHOLIC FRUSTRATION

by Fr. Tom Gibbons

I recently heard that the second priest to have ever dined in my parents’ home had been implicated in sex abuse scandal. As a former child abuse prosecutor and now mother of four, it has been a particularly difficult question to answer why stay in light of the crimes committed by an astounding number of priests and the subsequent systemic cover up by members of the hierarchy…

So began the letter of an old college friend with whom I have recently connected on Facebook. This friend has been an active member of the Catholic Church for as long as I’ve known her; in college she served as a sponsor for RCIA and after college she spent a year as a full-time volunteer. As the note continued, she did make a point of saying that she had not left the church and she is indeed making sure that her children are being raised in the faith. Still, the frustration was there… and I recognized it because it is the same frustration that I have also been trying to move beyond.

For years, the scandal and the ensuing cover-up served as one of the main reasons I resisted joining the priesthood… hence the name of the blog “Kicking and Screaming.” Like my friend, I saw the scandal as the result of a systemic issue, a mode of thinking in which clergy were viewed to be above the fray and a particular understanding of church infallibility was seen as something that had to be defended at all costs.

In other words, I did not see it as the actions of a few bad apples that happened to commit some grievous sins that could be easily isolated from the rest of the bunch; I saw it as basically an attitude of church first, flock second. Consequently, it made me wonder what would happen to my soul if I should more deeply enter into that system. Much like how one might refuse to visit the site Groupon.com after their infamous Super Bowl commercial about Tibet, during those years I was discerning I looked at the handling of the sex abuse crisis as Exhibit A of why I should take my “ministry business” elsewhere.

Eventually through the many (many, MANY) promptings of the Holy Spirit, I did join religious life. In an effort to be open to the journey, there have been times when I have tried to put the sex abuse scandal out of my mind… in much the same way some people try to set aside feelings about one’s mother-in-law in order to avoid jeopardizing the upcoming wedding. I tried to be open to what the Catholic Church has to offer beyond the scandal, beyond the power plays, and beyond the hypocrisy.

As my formation has continued, I began to not only experience the blessings of the Church, but I also felt God leading me to an increasing awareness of the scandals within my own life, the various power plays that I have made, and my own occasional penchant for hypocrisy. In other words—when I’m being really honest—I too have systemic flaws that cannot be remedied by getting of some of the bad apples of my soul. After all, the existence of those flaws is why I need God in the first place, the reason why I need religion who mediates God in the first place.

Of course that awareness should not serve as a free pass for the damage done by those who abused and those who covered up; it’s the issues in which we have the most to lose that are simultaneously the hardest confront but the most necessary to tackle. But it’s also to say that if I am a part of a Church that is in continual need of reform, one of those areas of the Catholic Church in need of reform is also me. In other words, we are all in this together.

To that end, my friend included a quote from the Italian spiritual writer Carlo Carrett at the close of her e-mail. I had never heard of him before, but Carett puts the experience of simultaneously being frustrated at the Church while being aware of one’s own shortcomings in a particularly apt light. He doesn’t necessarily come to a full resolution, but he offers a compelling perspective during those moments when the big red button labeled “EJECT” starts to look attractive. We are all in this together.

How much I must criticize you, my church and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone.

I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.

You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.

Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous, or more beautiful.

Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face— and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms.

No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you.

Then too- where would I go?

To build another church?

But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ’s church.

No. I am old enough. I know better.

2 comments:

Aloysius Milella said...

Blessings on you and on this post.
Thank you for the quotation from the writings of Carlo Caretto. He was a well known public personality in Italy before becoming a Little Brother of Jesus
(a group inspired by Bl.Charles de Foucald) and becoming a missionary
in Africa. He wrote a number of fine books onn spirituality. --Brother Aloysius M.--New York City

Michael said...

Thank you, Aloysius; God bless you!