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Monday, June 1, 2015

Corpus Christi--"How can Christ give us His flesh to eat?"

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

This Sunday is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi--the Feast which celebrates the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

While there are many minor differences between Catholicism and other Christian denominations, the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a major one that many Protestants* simply cannot accept.  We believe that He is literally, substantially and wholly present in the bread and wine--Jesus' body, blood, soul and divinity is present under the appearances of bread and wine.

From our Catechism: "By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity"--CCC 1413

For those who reject the Catholic teaching on the Real Presence, their objection comes down to this:  how can Christ give us His flesh to eat?

It's a hard saying--who could accept it?

Ironically, this is exactly the response that the Jews gave when Christ said, in John 6, that His followers would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”--John 6:52

The Jews understood that Christ was speaking literally.  And they didn't like it.

Many left Him over this.

And Jesus did not call them back, when they took Him literally, and say, "Hey!  I was only talking symbolically!  Remember when I said I was a door and a vine?  That was symbolic!  This, too, is symbolic language!"

NO.  He did not correct them, for He knew that He was indeed speaking literally, and that they had heard Him correctly.  They simply couldn't accept such a hard teaching, and Jesus let them go.

Some Protestants will counter that of course Jesus was speaking symbolically only because Jesus said "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life"--John 6:53.  They posit that Jesus couldn't be commanding us to eat His flesh, because He says the flesh is of no avail--it is His Words alone which give us "spirit and life".  

However, if it's true that Jesus' flesh is of no avail, then that means that His flesh, given up for us on the cross, could not have atoned for our sins.

So in offering the verse that says Jesus' flesh is of no avail, Protestants prove too much.  It seems to deny the atoning death of Christ, one of the central tenets of Christianity.  

Catholics do give a hearty amen to John 6:53, but we understand that it is a reference to our flesh being of no avail, not Christ's flesh.  

So, if Christians believe that God can create the entire universe out of nothing, then it's not so much of a leap to believe that God could change bread and wine into His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

One last comment:  it is a great sadness to me that non-Catholics cannot receive Him in the Eucharist--the most sublime and profound union we can have with the Numinous.  We truly become One Flesh with the exalted Son of God, the Savior of the World!  There can be no greater spiritual and physical intimacy between man and God than becoming One with Him in the Eucharist.  God and man become magnificently One Flesh!

However, the Church does not permit those who are not Catholic to receive Him, because receiving Him when one is not in communion with His Body, the Catholic Church would be a lie.  It would be saying with the body ("I am in communion with the Catholic Church!) what is not a reality. Even if a Christian says, "Well, I'm not Catholic, but I really do believe it's His Body and Blood" he ought not receive until he is in communion with us fully.  Indeed, if one is in communion with the Catholic Church, why not make it a reality and actually become a Catholic?

And I would add that the Catholic Church is nothing if not consistent, for this is exactly the reason why the Church teaches that pre-marital sex is wrong.  For it is a lie--it says with the body (we are One!) what is not a reality (we are actually not yet One).  Even if the couple declares that they do love each other completely.  The reality is, they are not actually united until they "make it a reality" by the Sacrament of Marriage.

These are indeed hard sayings by the Church.  Who could accept it?
*Some non-Catholic Christians do indeed accept that Jesus is indeed present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist--namely, the Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, and some Methodists.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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