Kirsten, my wife, converted to Catholicism because of the Eucharist. Her story is here.
Catholics think they have the most kickin' altar call around - Holy Communion. Talk about getting up and coming down the aisle for the Lord. Catholics believe we actually meet Him in the flesh when we hit the front of the Church.
Kirsten and I have had, independently, many experiences with the Holy Spirit. But by far our most powerful experiences with the Holy Spirit and Jesus have been right after taking the Eucharist: Jesus - body, blood, soul and divinity. We look forward to going to Church for this very reason, almost everyday if possible.
It wasn't always that way for me (David). Honestly, it took me eight years of being a Catholic before I "got it". Before that I thought the "real presence of Jesus in the bread" was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard of. What changed my mind? I simply prayed about it and asked Jesus to reveal the truth to me: "Lord please show me the truth about the Eucharist. If you literally become the Eucharist, please make your presence known" - and He did, Praise God! We're sorry that some "cultural" Catholics don't understand the mystery and the power in the Eucharist and that is why they leave the church. But that doesn't make us question the validity of the Eucharist. It only proves what Jesus himself said would happen. (Jn 6:56). Many disciples said it was a hard teaching to follow and so they left him. And they are still leaving him.
"The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1324.
Here's a photo I took while in Qumran, Israel where the Essenes transcribed the Dead Sea scrolls, 200 years before Christ. The bread and wine were the centre of their gatherings, and prefigure the Mass.
"They shall eat in common and bless in common and deliberate in common.. and when the table has been prepared for eating and the new wine for drinking the priest shall be the first to stretch out his hand to bless the first provie of the bread (or new wine)." Community Rule V. 2-5
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The old Hebrew name bêth lehem, means "house of bread." It is interesting that Jesus was born in a city that was called the "house of bread" and Mary laid Jesus in a manger, which is not just a stable, but rather a trough where animals would eat. Jesus later said, "I am the bread of life ...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man you will have no life within you." (Jn 6)
There are numerous letters from early Christians that recognize and document this belief in the real presence of Jesus.
Justin Martyr (100 - 165 AD) wrote a number of apologetic works. His "First Apology" was addressed to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius as an explanation of Christian practices. Chapter 66, in particular, discusses the practice of the Eucharist and clearly lays out the early Church teaching that it is the Body and Blood of Christ.
"And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist]... so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh..."popup of full quote
Chapter 66. Of the Eucharist
And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.
In 110 A.D. in a time where Jesus' followers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26), Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch had heard the Good News from John himself who wrote a Eucharist passage. (Jn 6:48-58) He wrote to the Churches while he was on the way to Rome to be thrown to lions. His letters were highly regarded in the early Church. He said "...They (the heretics) even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers (c.f. Acts 2:42) because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ." (3)
Writing to the church at Philadelphia he states, "Take care, then, to partake of one Eucharist; for, one is the Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His Blood, and one altar, just as there is one bishop assisted by the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow servants. Thus you will conform in all your actions to the will of God" (Letter to the Philadelphians, par. 4).
To the Church in Ephesus, Ignatius wrote that they were to "obey bishop and clergy with undivided minds and to share in the one common breaking of bread - the medicine of immortality and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ for ever more." (Eph 20:3)
It appears that early Christians were teaching we "live in Jesus Christ for evermore" in the Eucharist. (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 8:1-2). No early writings of the church view the Lord's Supper as a mere symbol that failed to do what it symbolized.
A well meaning Evangelical emailed me and said Church Fathers Theordoret of Cyrus, Iraneus and Augustine did not think the Eucharist was fully the Body and Blood of Jesus. I went back to the original documents of the quotes he provided. They were out of context and the Theodoret and Irenaeus explicitly declared the Eucharist to be the Body and Blood of Christ. More here.
Martin Luther, the founder of the reform believed in the real presence of
Jesus in the Eucharist. In 1529, he engaged the question of
transubstantiation in the famous conference at Marburg with Zwingli and
other Swiss theologians; he maintained his view that Christ is present in
the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
Occasionally, an Evangelical is at a Catholic mass, perhaps for a marriage or funeral. Some feel the Catholic Church is prideful or snobby for to not allowing non-Catholics to join Communion. However, we do let some non-Catholics celebrate communion with us. Most Eastern Orthodox Christians are welcome. So it's not about having an "exclusive club." We would love everybody to be in a position to receive the Eucharist. (Jn 6:56) Saint Paul says:
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." (1 Cor 11:27-29)
We think it is quite serious to consume the Eucharist without believing ("discerning") that it is the Body of Jesus. It is a kind of desecration. We don't want to see people hurt themselves that way, and we don't want to be held accountable before God for not paying attention to what he had ordered us to do in Scripture. It would banalize the center of our faith. We cannot pretend that there is unity by compromising what I believe is the Body of our Lord, the source and summit of our faith. We pray for the day when all Christians will be in full unity. I have a full article on why the Church refuses communion to some Christians here.
I attended Catholic Church for 7 years before I decided to become Catholic, and I didn't take the Eucharist during that time. So I understand what it feels like to watch everybody go up for Communion while I stayed in my pew and pray. But it didn't keep me away from the Catholic Church.
In jokingly trying to belittle the Eucharist, an Evangelical friend said to me, "if it is really the body of Christ, what happens if a bit falls on the floor and a mouse comes along and eats it?" An image appeared in my mind of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus' blood fell to the ground for the rats to eat. What a tragedy. I hope we never waste a crumb of his precious body or a drop of his precious blood. In the Mel Gibson Movie, "The Passion," Mary mopped up the blood of Jesus. His body and blood are very precious.
There is another way to respond to this joke about a piece of the Eucharist falling to the ground. Consider that Jesus' body is the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1). In places like Capernaum Jesus' words often fell on "deaf" ears and hard hearts. It was a tragedy but it does not make his words any less real. Sometimes the Eucharist is wasted on people with hard hearts but devout Catholics don't think that makes this miracle any less real. In 1 Sam 3:19 we read, "As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground." I pray the word of God made flesh in the Eucharist never falls to the ground.
The Catholic Church considers the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist to be a mystery. The Church is totally cool with it being a mystery. We humans only have 3.5 pound brains. We can't understand everything, nor does God expect us to. To those who say "it's impossible for Jesus to change the substance of the bread into his body", we answer "could He do it if He wanted to?" Catholics think He could, because He can do anything. He certainly had no problem changing water into wine. Catholics believe He wanted to do it, He promised it, He predicted it, and He followed through. "Take eat, this is my body." (Mat. 26:26, Mk. 14:22, Lk 22:19) After talking about the bread (manna) from heaven he says "I am the Bread of Life" (Jn 6:35). "For the bread that I will give...is my flesh" (Jn 6:51). Many of his followers had trouble with that back then (Jn 6:60) and many have trouble with it now. I understand people who have a problem with the idea. I did before I experienced it.
Early Christians "devoted themselves to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers" (Acts 2:42) They "met to break bread" (Acts 20:7). This wording makes it appear that the breaking of bread was the purpose of the meeting and central to their discussions together and unity. The "Bread of Life" (Jn 6:23) was a central part of Christian Sunday worship.
". . . Whoever eats (Greek: trogon) me will live because of me. . . Also the one who feeds (trogon) on my flesh will have life . . ." (Jn 6 :48-58)
The normal word in Greek for "eat" is Phagon but in this passage the author uses Trogon which literally means to crunch or gnaw. It is not just a metaphor. The verb tense of Trogon implies continuous consumption of the body & blood of Christ. Death was introduced to humanity through eating the forbidden fruit. (The act of actually eating a food) and now life is restored by actually eating the "bread of life", that is Christ's flesh.(1)
The Ark of the Covenant held the stone tablets with the Commandments and the Manna, these can be understood to be prototypes of the Word of God which is Jesus, and the Word of God, as Jesus in the Eucharist.
We got an email that said:
If we receive Jesus' glorified body in the Eucharist, then what did the apostles receive in the upper room since His body hadn't been glorified yet? (Last Supper)
My question back to him was: "Who was the 'rock' in the desert? (Exo 17:6, 1 Cor 10:4) Who was the "Word" in the beginning of time (Jn 1:2-3)", "Before Abraham was, I AM" (Jn 8:58) Jesus hadn't been born yet. Nevertheless, Scripture makes it clear that it was Jesus.
John Pacheco and Art Sippo say:
There is no "yet" with Jesus. He is not subject to time. That would be a heresy for both Protestants and Catholics. So the answer is that it was the SAME Eucharist as the one you receive today. The Eucharist transcends time and space. In it we receive Christ whole and entire: body, blood, soul, and divinity.
- Jesus said "Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and died ...I am the living bread that came down from heaven ...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man you will not have life within you."
- Jesus was born in "Bethlehem" which, in Hebrew, literally means "house of Bread"
- A manger was not a place where animals stayed. It was a trough where food was put to feed the animals. Mary laid Jesus in a place where food was placed
- At the last supper, which was a passover meal, Jesus said "take this and eat it, this is my body."
Pope St. Damascus (366-383) wrote a poem which reminds us of St. Tarcisius, who was commemorated by martyrdom at the Catacombs in Rome:
"When a wicked group of fanatics flung themselves
on Tarcisius who was carrying the Eucharist,
wanting to profane the Sacrament, the boy preferred
to give up his life rather than yield up
the Body of Christ to those rabid dogs".
That is why we Catholics are so sensitive about desecration of the Eucharist, I believe it is truly the body and blood of Jesus, and many of us are willing to go to the grave for that belief.
Some Evangelicals believe that Jesus intended his phrase "I am the bread of life" to be understood in a symbolic way. Catholics believe that Jesus clearly spells it out "Very truly unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (Jn 6:53) Many followers left him saying "who can follow this teaching." Christ let them leave. He did not say "Hey, you have it all wrong, come back, it's just a metaphor - a symbol- it's not really my flesh" (2) Here is a further discussion on why Catholics believe the disciples fully understood "I am the bread" to be Jesus' actual body before they abandoned him.
Some Evangelicals believe that when Jesus said "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless," (Jn 6:63) He was saying that his teaching "I am the bread of life" was just a metaphor. Catholics believe that Jesus was explaining to them that the limitations of their faith is their flesh so they could not see the spiritual truth in what he is saying. We must remember this was Jesus' response to them saying "This teaching is difficult, who can accept it."
Catholics are clear that the Eucharist is not just a spiritual warm fuzzy like when we get hit with the Holy Spirit at a prayer meeting. It is the only body Jesus has had since the ascension. We share in this body during communion and become his body (the Church).
Catholics believe this is a great mystery of the Christian faith. But we believe Jesus set it up very well before dropping this truth "bomb" on the disciples in the book of John 6. John 6:3 begins with the miracle of the loaves, he then talks about the miracle of the manna in the dessert (Jn 6:49). These both foreshadow his most powerful statement "I am the Bread of Life" and help him set the people up for what he knew would be the most difficult statement to understand that he ever spoke. He knew many would leave at that point and so after setting it up with the foreshadowing, after explaining it four times, and clarifying himself in Jn 6:63 he let them go (Jn 6:66). He did not chase after them to assure them he was just talking "symbolically" because they understood his words correctly and they could not accept it. Thank God the apostles stayed with him.
This belief that the Eucharist becomes the glorified body of Christ is not
"consubstantiation." Catholics believe the Eucharist is fully Him
(Transubstantiation). Catholics believe the
miracle of the Eucharist is that it has the taste, smell, and shape of the
wafer but that during the mass, the substance actually becomes Christ's
glorified body which can only been seen through the eyes of Faith. Some might
say "how is that possible?" My question would be "could Jesus do it if He
wanted to?" Catholics believe the answer is "yes." They believe he wanted
to, that He said he would do it and that He delivered on his promise.
Catholics believe the act of "disobedience" in Eden was to eat of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Gen 2:17) This introduced death into the world. Catholics believe that the act of "obedience" that introduces life into the world is to follow Jesus' command when he says "whoever eats me will live because of me" Catholics believe Jesus is the new life.
Scripture says "For indeed Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep this feast." (1 Cor 5:7-8) This relates to Exodus 12:1-42. The Passover meal saved from the angel of death who was striking the first born children in Egypt. At a traditional Passover supper, the Jews ate the sacrificial lamb. Catholics believe Paul is saying that this feast should continue. They don't think that he was "re-sacrificing" Christ when he kept this feast.
We see the Eucharistic formula throughout Scripture. At table, Jesus takes . . . blesses . . . breaks . . . and gives the bread. He also took a cup of wine; after giving thanks to God, He gave it to His disciples saying, "This is My blood . . . of the [new] covenant." Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20. This is the same formula Jesus uses during the first Eucharistic celebration after the resurrection when He encountered two disciples on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-35). When the Corinthians drift from the proper Eucharistic formula, Paul corrects them. (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)
Scott Hahn says:
Though Paul was not there at the Last Supper, he tells them he received this teaching from the churches founded by the Apostles; they, in turn, received this teaching directly from the Lord: "I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you" The Greek words Paul uses - translated as "received" and "handed on" - are technical terms the rabbis of his day used to describe the keeping and teaching of sacred traditions. Paul uses these same words when he talks about his teaching on Christ's death and Resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:2-3). These two sacred traditions - the truth about Christ's death and Resurrection and the truth about the Eucharist, the memorial of His death - were received from the Lord and handed on by the Apostles. These traditions were inseparable and crucial to the message of salvation they preached.
Through Christ's death and Resurrection, Paul said, "we are being saved." In the Eucharist, that saving event is "remembered" in a way that communicates that salvation to us: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup," Paul said, "you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes" (see 1 Corinthians 11:26).
In John's Gospel we read "I am the Bread of Life" (see John 6:34, 51). In the other, delivered at the Last Supper (see John 13:2,4), Jesus again says two times: "I am the Vine" [referring to wine] (see John 15:1,5).
Some Evangelicals feel that the idea of eating Jesus is Cannibalistic. Catholics don't think so. When Catholics say that the bread becomes the body of Christ, they are talking about the glorified body of Christ. Immediately after Jesus said, "whoever eats me will live because of me" (Jn 6:58). He says, "what if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?" (Jn 6:62) Catholics feel He is explaining that his body will be changed into a glorified body (such as is described in 1 Cor 15:40) at the ascension. This passage of John foreshadows the ascension. And this is how Jesus clarified himself and made the distinction between his mortal body (Cannibalistic concept) and his Glorified body (Eucharistic concept). The glorified body of Christ was the revelation of his true nature as the Incarnate God. That is what we receive.
I was recently on a bus traveling to Toronto when I saw a university student with his history book, "The Romans, from Village to Empire." (Oxford Press 2004). I flipped it open to the section on Christianity in ancient Rome. It discussed the Roman's impression of the early Christians.
...Their 'eating the body and drinking the blood of their savior' was called cannibalism...
So Evangelicals are not the first to think this insistence that Jesus literally becomes the Eucharist is odd. The bad news is that they share this opinion with Pagan Romans long before Constantine. Yup, the early Christians believed what we Catholics still believe about the Eucharist.
In the New Testament Jesus is called the "Lamb of God" 34 times (i.e., Jn 1:36). Scripture refers to the Last Supper as the Passover Lamb (Mk 14:11). At the original Passover (Exodus 12:1-42) the Lamb of God had to be eaten. At the last supper Jesus said "take this and eat it, this is my body." Catholics don't think this is a coincidence.
No it's not. He died once for our sins and his presence remains forever. In Catholic terms we say it is a "Sacramental Expression of a Paschal Mystery." (Paschal means "having to do with the Passover".)
When Evangelicals say, "I am washed in the blood of Jesus" (which I love) are they re-sacrificing Jesus who died 2000 years ago? No, they are experiencing the perpetual nature of his sacrifice for our sins.
Breaking of bread happened every time apostles met. It appears to be a very sacred thing they did together rather than just some fellowship. (Acts 2:42, 1 Cor 11:20-21). Failing to discern the body & blood brings condemnation, "That is why many of you are ill and infirm and a considerable number are dying", (1 Cor 11:27-32). Jesus said "This is my body" ("Esti" in Greek).(1 Co 11:24) There are a dozen Greek words that could have been used to describe it as a "symbol". But those words were not used. The word used is "body."
It is not required for a Priest to be free of sin in order for the Eucharist to be validly consecrated. Jesus would not be that cruel to his people. If the Eucharist required the Priest to be in a state of holiness while making the consecration, then every prideful thought of the priest would invalidate the Eucharist, which would draw the congregation into false worship of an idol, a false God because in the Mass we worship Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus would never do that. He said "This is my Body" He did not say "This is my body ONLY if the priest is a saint." However, it is important that the priest use the correct formula during the consecration. "This is my body..."
We must remember that Jesus chose 12 disciples, and of those, 1 betrayed him (Judas), 1 denied him (Peter) and all but one (John) deserted him in his hour of need. Yet Jesus used these imperfect people to build his Church, which has gone on to become a beacon of light in the world. It is the most respected religion. And all of those apostles except for Judas, went on to give their lives in defense of Jesus, and they became empowered by the Holy Spirit.
When the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, why do they still look and taste like bread and wine?
Ok, I'm going to get heady here. Here's a theological explanation of what Catholics believe happens in Transubstantiation. It introduces two important medieval theological words "accidents" and "substance". (note: "accident" is not like a car accident)
In the Church's traditional theological language, in the act of consecration during the Eucharist the "substance" of the bread and wine is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the "substance" of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the "accidents" or appearances of bread and wine remain. "Substance" and "accident" are here used as philosophical terms that have been adapted by great medieval theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas in their efforts to understand and explain the faith. Such terms are used to convey the fact that what appears to be bread and wine in every way (at the level of "accidents" or physical attributes - that is, what can be seen, touched, tasted, or measured) in fact is now the Body and Blood of Christ (at the level of "substance" or deepest reality). This change at the level of substance from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is called "transubstantiation." According to Catholic faith, we can speak of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because this transubstantiation has occurred (cf. Catechism, no. 1376) ... Christ's presence in the Eucharist is unique in that, even though the consecrated bread and wine truly are in substance the Body and Blood of Christ, they have none of the accidents or characteristics of a human body, but only those of bread and wine.
We got an email that said:
When the wine in transubstantiated into the blood of Christ, does the alcoholic content cease to exist? ... why were some of the Corinthians (ICor.) becoming drunk from the wine at the Lord's Supper?
Yes, people can get drunk on consecrated wine, but that's not proof of non transubstantiation. It only indicates confusion over the concepts of accident versus substance. I'm allergic to bread and yes the Eucharist also. That is the accident (physical attributes). I'm still totally into the Eucharist even though I'm allergic, and take a tiny corner of it at Mass. The physical characteristics remain intact. The substance however, is totally Jesus. And yup, this is hard to understand. Even the Bible says its hard to understand (Jn 6:56) and lots of disciples quit over it.
In Ezekiel 47:12 we read "...because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."
We got an email that asked:
Why do Catholics use a tabernacle? I realize the Jews had a tabernacle, but if we ask Jesus into our hearts, why do they still use a tabernacle?
Catholics believe that Christ is present not only in a "spiritual way" like when he is in our hearts, but he is also is literally present as the Eucharist, in a very physical way. This is what all of the early Christians believed and Catholics believe Jesus commanded us to continue to honour him in this way. That's why we have Mass, to come and worship him and receive the Eucharist. It is by far the most important part of our faith, because it is Jesus in the Flesh among us.
In Jewish history the Tabernacle contained the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the 10 Commandments, which was the Word of God that came into the material world. It was the Word of God made stone. Under the New Covenant, Jesus is the Word of God made of flesh (Jn. 1). Therefore in our Sanctuary, in the Church, we have a Tabernacle where we place Word of God made flesh (the Eucharist), just as the Jewish people had a Tabernacle where they placed the Word of God made stone (the 10 Commandments).
Didn't Jesus say "fruit of the vine" when referring to the wine (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18)?
We got an email that said:
... if it is really the blood of Christ than [sic] why does Jesus say "For I say to you, I will no drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes"(Mt. 26:29; Mk 14:25; Lk 22:18) ... why would Jesus call it the fruit of the vine if it is his blood? He is referring to it as wine.
Rather than invalidating his explanation of the wine becoming his Blood, Catholics believe that he is reinforcing the depth of the Eucharist here by linking his Body and Blood to this passage:
"... remain in me and I will remain in you... I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (Jn 15:4-5)
This passage takes on an incredibly dense meaning when Jesus links it to the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The phrase "remain in me and I'll remain in you" is a perfect description of Communion. The Greek word for fruit is “genneema" which literally means “that which is generated from the vine.” When we take Communion we physically become the branches of the vine, who is Jesus, and we become part of his body. We must remain in Eucharistic Communion with him in order to bear "much" fruit.
There are examples were the Greek word “genneema” means “birth” or “generation.” (Matt. 3:7, 12:34, 23:33) In 1 Cor. 11:26-27, Paul used “bread” and “the body of the Lord” interchangeably in the same sentence. Jesus often speaks on many levels at the same time. He is God.
What about unfaithful Catholics? How come they can take the Eucharist and faithful Evangelicals can't?
Yes, that is a huge problem, one of the worst we as a Church are facing. We live in a superficial, cynical, materialistic society, and many "Catholics" are complacent and superficial. I can understand your anger at the hypocrisy of unfaithful Catholics taking communion while faithful Evangelicals can't take Catholic Communion.
I think at the heart of the issue is a fundamental difference between the way the Catholic Church approaches dissent and the way many non-Catholic Churches do. We know that on any given day there may be millions of abuses of the Sacraments. We don't want that, and we will do everything in our power to prevent it, (short of being draconian), but what we won't do is change the canonical law in order to acknowledge the reality that people abuse the Sacraments.
Allow me a far-out analogy. It's kind of like the reason we don't approve of "harm reduction" strategies to deal with the reality of people shooting up heroin with dirty needles. Secular relativistic society says "People are shooting up and getting HIV, that's a reality that we can't stop, so let's give them clean needles." The short term effects are that less people get HIV, but the long term effects are that more people use Heroin because of the message society sends to people inclined toward addiction, and the long term effect is that more people get HIV.
The Catholic Church is in this battle against Satan for the long haul. We are willing to give up a short term illusion of unity, and hold out for the real thing. Even if it takes a few hundred years or even until the Lord comes back, we can't forbid a Catholic from taking communion unless they are publicly known to be in a position of apostasy, which is one of the big issues with pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians, more and more we are moving towards refusing communion.
Allow me another analogy. In many Evangelical Churches, they are struggling with what to do about the reality that some people are same sex attracted... After many years of trying to hold out for the Biblical truth, many have succumbed to the dilemma. They have allowed same-sex to be "tolerated, accepted, etc " Methodists, Anglicans, ELCA Lutherans, United, and dozens more are falling one after another. Of course right after Vatican II we in the Catholic Church had a huge problem of gay priests who ran into the priesthood to avoid marriage. We could have succumbed like the Anglicans and United did, and just said, "Oh well, nothing we can do about this, let's ordain gay priests." But instead, after much trouble and scandal, we made a major clean up. We could do that because we never changed the rule to accommodate the "reality" but instead held fast and the seminaries are cleaning up, and we are restoring the priesthood (abuse cases were mostly in the 60's-70's).
It is kind of like that with the Eucharist. We know that if we keep the right rules, eventually, things will clean up. We actually think the future of the Church will be plastered with persecution, and there will be much falling away and only the good Catholics will stay, and that will take care of the Eucharistic abuses. We know the Lord we purify us and we expect it will be through persecution.
So today we follow the rule. If someone comes to us and says "I'm not in communion with the Church, but I love Christ and I would like to partake" we have to respond the way all of our forefathers responded... "we are sorry, it is called Comm-union, we pray for unity, but cannot put the cart before the horse." The same if someone comes to us and says "I'm a divorced Catholic, but I love Christ, can I receive communion ?" We would say "sorry, we can't do that until you rectify the situation and come into communion with the the Church.
Ironically, many Bible believing denominations try to have unity by avoiding Bible passages where they disagree ...To me this is a superficial unity, not the "complete unity" that we are called to in John 17:29. If avoiding theology and saying "Jesus is Lord" was enough then Evangelical pastors would not have to go to school for 3 years.
Jesus could have just showed up on earth for a day saying "I'm Lord" and did a big miracle and split, but He didn't. For 3000 years before his birth, Jesus was developing Scripture through the history of the Jewish people. When he began his ministry, He taught his apostles for 3 years, and they were the Church. After his death the apostles wrote down his words and formed a structure of authority just as Jesus asked.
We don't think unity can be fostered by caving in on such an important issue as the Eucharist, which caused so much bloodshed of the early martyrs who guarded it's integrity. We'll share in prayer, in Bible studies, playing music together, worshiping together, but not the Eucharist.
It took me seven years to actually get it and in the end it was not theology that got me, it was prayer. I simply prayed, "Jesus, if that is really your physical body in the Eucharist then that is REALLY important, and I should experience that, but I don't experience your presence in the Eucharist now, could you show me the Truth about the Eucharist."
Over the next three months, I completely turned around, and started going to daily Mass...
This is the invitation I make to you... I am certain that if you remain open and ask God to show you the Truth about the Eucharist you will experience the power of Christ in the Eucharist, in a very distinct way from what we experience at a Spirit filled prayer service... In the Eucharist he is vulnerable like when he came to us as a baby, the incarnate word... today he is still incarnate in the Eucharist... not just the nice fuzzy feeling of the Holy Spirit at a prayer meeting... but we actually eat him ...
The following table shows the Biblical comparison of Adam and Eve's fall in the garden by eating the forbidden fruit to Mary's "yes" and Jesus' presence in the Eucharist. It highlights why Catholics call Mary the "new Eve," why I believe the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, and the reasons we must eat it.
|The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Gen. 2:18)||"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. (Luke 1:38)|
|The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called 'Woman', because she was taken out of Man...(Gen. 2:23)||And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." (John 2:4)|
|Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Gen. 2:22)||But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)|
|"...but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Gen. 2:17)||"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:54)|
|"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:4)||When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)|
|When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate...(Gen. 3:6)||Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?" (John 6:41-42)|
|"Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Gen. 3:11)||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 yourselves." (John 6:53)|
The man said, "The woman you put here with me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." (Gen. 3:12)
Note: the fruit of the tree was a fruit which when eaten caused death
And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! (Luke 1:42)
Note: Jesus is called 'fruit' ...eating Jesus gives life...
|Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (Gen. 3:13)||And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)|
|Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. (Gen. 3:20)||When Jesus then saw his mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" (John 19:26-27)|
|And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." (Gen. 3:22)||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)|
This chart was developed by my friend John Pacheco. www.Catholic-Legate.com
(1) "Rome Sweet Home", by Scott & Kimberly Hahn
(2) "The Usual Suspects", by Karl Keating, pg 171
(3) "Surprised by Truth", by Patrick Madrid, pg. 196
Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.