Dear Friends in Christ,
Over the years, it has been repeatedly reported how few Catholics understand the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. Indeed over the last fifty years, there has been a growing confusion among Catholics about this truth and the central teaching of our faith. Simply put, we believe Jesus when He says “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink!” (Jn 6) and “This is My Body …This is My Blood.” (Mt 26, Mk 14, Lk 22, 1 Cor 11). We do NOT believe this to be merely a symbolic gesture or figurative speech. We believe what Jesus says is true and that he meant what he said. The belief that the bread and wine are changed into the very, real body and blood of Jesus is called by the name transubstantiation. This term is from the middle ages, but the teaching and the truth of the teaching goes back to Jesus himself (see Jn 6). This teaching means that while the outward appearances (look, taste, feel, smell, molecular structure, etc.) of bread and wine remain, the substance (reality) is changed into the body and blood of Jesus. In the Eucharist, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore the whole Christ is truly, really and sacramentally contained. (CCC 1374). This is a beautiful teaching and is indeed absolutely central to our Catholic Faith. It is so important that Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” Jn 6:53
A fuller exposition of this teaching can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraphs 1332-1419. If you do not have a catechism, you really should have one and read it regularly. Every family should have two books in their home, a bible and a catechism and they should be read regularly. If you are looking for an online version of the Catechism – we’ve got you covered! Just click here!
One of the difficulties that we face is when what we believe, what we say we believe and how we act do not always align. Many people, especially children, youth and non-Catholics, look at how we act more than what we say. Our actions speak louder than our words. As Catholics, we say we believe that the Eucharist is truly and really Jesus, but then we act in contradiction to that. How? By treating Jesus in the Eucharist in a most casual or nonchalant fashion. Sometimes we are so casual that someone may look at us and think that we believe the Eucharist is nothing of any importance and that we do not really believe or know that it is Jesus. They think that we believe the Eucharist to be nothing more than a symbol at best.
How should we act if we truly believe that the Eucharist really is Jesus? First, we will never miss Sunday Mass. We make every effort to offer Mass. We see the Holy Mass as the most important part of our week and act like it. Period. We express our reverence, respect and honor for Jesus in our attitudes and actions. We make every effort to be on time for Mass and never leave early. We reflect our honor and reverence for Jesus in our attire at Mass. We prepare for Mass by praying before Mass, we participate fully during the Mass by singing and responding to the prayers and we stay afterwards to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the Mass and the gift of the Eucharist. We always genuflect before the tabernacle prior to entering the pew, leaving the pew and whenever passing in front of the tabernacle. We keep a reverent tone so as not to disturb others in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. When we speak of the Eucharist, we never refer to the consecrated elements as merely “the bread and the wine.” Rather, we properly refer to the “The Precious Body and Blood”. When approaching to receive Christ in the Eucharist, an act of reverence is appropriate such as a bow of the head. When presented the Consecrated Host with the words “The Body of Christ”, we respond aloud, affirming our faith in the Eucharist and the real presence by responding “Amen.” We treat the consecrated host and the Precious Blood with reverence in our reception of Holy Communion. We never grab the sacred host if we receive in hand. We consume the Sacred Host immediately and with consciousness of what we are doing. We make sure that we are spiritually prepared to receive our Lord by going to confession regularly and never when we are aware of serious or mortal sin on our souls. Upon returning to our place, we kneel in reverence and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for so wonderful a gift.
As we give these outward signs of reverence, they will strengthen our faith in Jesus and help us to grow in our faith and love of the Lord. Our reverence forms us and transforms us. Our reverence is also a witness to the beauty and the truth of the Eucharist. Let your love for Jesus shine!
In pace Christi,