Last Sunday the Church celebrated the Most Holy Trinity, the doctrine that defines us as Christians. This week we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord (formerly, Corpus Christi), the doctrine of the Eucharist which most identifies us as Catholics.
At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my Body.” He then took the cup, filled with wine, gave it to his disciples and said, “Take this and drink from it, for this is my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant. Do this in memory of me.”
From the earliest days, the Church understood that these words were to be understood literally. Bread and wine are truly changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is not the dead Body and dead Blood of Jesus but his living Body and Blood. In the Eucharist, Jesus makes himself present for us, not only in his divinity, which is always with us everywhere, but in his humanity as well.
Somehow we have failed to teach this truth in an effective way. Many Catholics believe that the bread and wine only symbolically represent the Body and Blood of Jesus. They believe that it is not Jesus. There are probably any number of reasons that we have failed to communicate this great truth to the Catholic people, but we must find a way to turn this around.
If the Eucharist is not really the Body and Blood of Jesus, then our tabernacles should be removed from the churches, for they are simply holding little pieces of bread. We should stop genuflecting when we enter the church, for we are honoring and worshiping bread, which would be idolatry and a sacrilege. In fact, I would say that if this teaching is not true, then we should close all of our Catholic churches or turn them into museums honoring a quaint and ill-informed superstition.
But it is true. After teaching his followers this truth in the Bread of Life Discourse (chapter 6 of John’s Gospel), many of his followers abandoned him because they found it too much to handle. He let them leave, because if they could not accept this, then they could not be his disciples. Saint Paul, in First Corinthians, stated that because some of the early Christians did not recognize that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist but were receiving anyway, many of them were getting sick and some were dying. The Biblical witness is clear on this matter, as are the writings of the Church Fathers, the great theologians of the first five centuries of the Church’s history.
Please think about what that means. When you go to Communion, it is really the living Lord Jesus Christ who you are receiving, who you are touching. The same Jesus who touched the ears of the deaf, the eyes of the blind, who lifted up the lame, and restored them to wholeness, is touching you. By making himself our spiritual food and drink, he gives himself to us in an even more intimate way, actually becoming one with us.
—Fr. Mike Comer