Friday, June 30, 2006

The Eucharist is Jesus' risen body

Summer softball for SAA Young Adults: any SAA young adults interested in playing some softball this summer, please email me (go to my profile for my email address). We'll play games on the Athletic Field, and then maybe get together for some refreshments afterwards!
When I introduced myself the first weekend here, I mentioned that for the first twenty years of my life, I thought that the Eucharist was just a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ. I'm sure, at some point, that I'd been taught about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, having been raised in a strong Catholic home and gone through fourteen years of Catholic school. I just didn't get it.

Years ago, a study revealed that about 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is merely a symbol, a representation of Christ's flesh and blood. From where did I get this erroneous understanding? From where do the 70% get it? There are, at least, a few possible answers, but these are more rhetorical questions than anything for my purposes here.

It was pretty much one conversation with a priest that changed my understanding, and changed my life. Fr. Tom Wells was a good friend with whom I played golf regularly (the 19th Hole was our favorite), went on beach trips, and discussed everything under the sun - religion, politics, sports, etc. He was a great priest who was brilliant, funny (probably the funnest person I've ever met), holy, and a 100 % believer in the Eucharist.

One day when I was twenty-one, I was sitting in Fr. Wells' office, shooting the breeze with my buddy. I somehow blurted out, "well, you know, Father, the Eucharist is just a symbol". "What??", he said. "It's a ...symbol?", I said very shakily. He replied in a very casual but firm manner, "Greg, 'this is my body' means 'THIS IS MY BODY'". I was simultaneously dumbfounded, intrigued, inspired, and curious the moment these words registered in my mind and heart. That was the moment the light bulb went on: FINALLY, I GOT IT!

We continued talking about how the Eucharist is really Jesus' Body and Blood. Fr Wells explained to me that Jesus doesn't die over and over again at every Mass; Scripture says that Christ died once and for all (see Rom 6:10, Heb 7:27). The Eucharist that is present on the altar at Mass, in the tabernacle in the Church, and that we receive in Holy Communion is the RISEN body of Christ. This realization changed my life (I will write more about this in a future post).

"The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" - Jn 6:51.


At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Greg,
When I heard your sermon about the Eucharist it made me ask I really believe that the Eucharist is Christ's body and blood. And after thinking about it...I realized that I didn't. Know i definatly believe it! You're sermon definatly changed my life! Thank you!!!

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Wow!! Praise God! That is really great stuff. Thanks very much for posting made my day! I would like to hear more, if you are able to write more - how you see your life changing, what the Real Presence means in your life, whatever. It would really help others to read about your thoughts and experiences.

There is so much we can do as a parish to grow in our relationship with Christ in the Eucharist. He is waiting for us in the Eucharist. The Mass is the greatest thing we can do, and right behind that is Adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist. I will explain this more in my homily this weekend. It's a powerful experience every time! And, it brings such healing...just as the woman with the hemorrhage was healed by Christ (this Sunday's Gospel).

Thanks, Anon!

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Ty Roach said...

Fr. Greg, your story is so much like mine it is scary. I too, am a craddle catholic with 12 years Catholic schooling. I too thought and said that the Eucharist we receive is just a symbol. Regrettably for me, it wasn't until I started attending the men's faith study group that you helped start up here at St. Martin's parish in Gaithersburg that I realized how mistaken I was.

You were the first person that I can remember telling me that the Eucharist is Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity. It shook me.

I guess you could say that I was already on my conversion path. I felt a void in my life, and a calling to be more involved in my faith. To understand it better. Prior to that men's faith group meeting, I started going to Eucharistic Adoration, although I really didn't get it. I enjoyed the peacefulness of that place, but still found myself distracted. Slowly but surely, I kept coming back, moving ever closer physically (and I guess spiritually too) to the Blessed Sacrament (so that I wouldn't be distracted by looking at other people. Eventually, I was all the way up front, staring at our Lord and not unstanding what I was doing.

We you said to me those same words - 'This is my body, means THIS IS MY BODY', it shook my faith. I was just coming alive in my faith thanks in large part to you, Fr. Dan and meeting a group of other guys that seemed like me - flawed by nature, but seeking and aspiring to be more holy - to know my faith better. I was learning more about my faith, but I was starting to doubt. Next, you told me to read John 6. I did. I was also reading a booklet by Paul Whitcomb called 'Confession of a Roman Catholic'.

Then, as you describe, the light went on. I got it, and most importantly, I believed it! I believed in HIM, Jesus and His Real Presence.

That changed my life too.

My marriage became better. My fatherhood became more joyful. I found real meaning to my life. My priorities started to change.

Not to sound too wierd, but Heaven became my goal. I want to be in Heaven. I want to do all I can to get there. I want to please God and thank Him for his incredible generousity.

I am still a work in progress. I fall way short far too often, but try to pick myself back up, hit confession and try harder.

As you say, the Eucharist is Center Of Our Lives! So COOL!

At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I JUST DON'T GET IT!!!! I can't really explain but I try to belive that it's God but somehow I just can't. That's a problem that sometimes occurs. The ENORMITY of it all just overwhelms me that I and scared to even try to understand the Eucharist fully. I'd feel safer thinking that it's just a symbol.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the right ratio of water and wine at the time the priest prepares the sacramental gift? Why does he have to mix water with wine? Thank you!

At 11:58 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

To the last Anon, thanks for your question about water and wine. I remember learning that no more than three drops of water are to be added to the wine. And, if it's more than 50% water to wine, then it's invalid matter for the Sacrament.

As far as why a mixture of water and wine, check out the following site which explains it further. In addition to what the author writes, think of the scene at the foot of the Cross with the centurion putting his spear in Christ's side. Water and blood gushing out, symbolizing Baptism but also the Eucharist.

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also heard that the water represents the humanity of Christ and the wine, the divinity of Christ. Is that true?

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Lutheran and we understand the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist as well. One of the commentaters said they're afraid to "get it". I think you should be afraid not to get it. Actually, from my experience, I would say that failure to get the Real Presence is failure to discern the Body of Christ & the Fellowship & Communion of Saints. Ask God to help you discern His body & He will open up what it's all about to you. I had a battle royal before I grasped it. Now I live in breathless expectation for every Lord's Supper, where He & us are one, in the fellowship, in the bread & wine and we all are in the Father. It's where those who have faith in Christ Jesus come together to partake & the miracle, divine mystery is, He meets us there and communes with us. I get giddy just thinking about it. It's so divine, it's everything Christianity is truly about. I have to say though it's not something I grasped intellectually. The Lord purposefully led me to the Table & revealed it's significance there to me. That's why I say you should pray & ask the Father if He will show you, you can't understand it with your head, it's spiritually discerned.


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