Friday, July 07, 2006

"This is a hard teaching"

Mass and Adoration tonight! All bloggers are invited to join me tonight (7/7) in St Andrew's Church for Mass (7 pm) and Adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist (7:30-8:30). We'll have some prayerful music and I'll offer a spiritual reflection. These are two great ways to be with our Lord, but especially on First Friday (of the month).
Recently, a SAA blogger wrote the following about the Eucharist: "I JUST DON'T GET IT!!!! I can't really explain but I try to believe 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 am scared to even try to understand the Eucharist fully. I'd feel safer thinking that it's just a symbol."

This is really good stuff! I don't mean to belittle the anonymous blogger's struggle at all because "this is a hard teaching" (John 6:60). But, this is what faith is all about. A connection has been made for "Anon": he/she has heard the Truth about the Eucharist. For that reason, Anon, you do get it!! You are so right to say that the ENORMITY OF IT ALL IS OVERWHELMING. It is. But, so many Catholics never even approach that point because it never registers with them that it's anything more than bread.

Now, a few practical points, to help you and all those who struggle with the Real Presence in your faith:

1) Trying to understand the Eucharist is like trying to understand the Trinity: 'not gonna do it'. We believe THAT transubstantiation occurs (the substances of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ while retaining their qualities) but we don't understand HOW it happens; it's a mystery.
2) Please read John 6. This is where Jesus teaches about the Eucharist. Neither in this chapter nor in any of the Last Supper accounts does Jesus use the word 'symbol'. The word symbol, in relation to the Eucharist, was first used in the 1500s by the Protestant Reformers.
3) To use an analogy, monopoly money is symbolic only; it means nothing in the real world.

Martin Luther was a Catholic priest who helped start the "protests" against the Church 500 years ago. He changed "this is my body" to "this symbolizes my body" in his biblical translation in order to meet the new theology of his movement. 'The Eucharist is a symbol only' is man-made; the Church has condemned it as heresy (denial of a truth that must be believed in faith). It doesn't appear anywhere in Scripture, Tradition, or in the teachings of the Magisterium. It is not safe at all, then, to believe that the Eucharist is symbolic only; in fact, heresy puts one's soul in REAL DANGER!

The Church has believed for 2000 years that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ- Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - because of 4 words: "This is my body". Jesus said these words at the Last Supper when he instituted the Eucharist (and the priesthood). Before that, he spoke in real, literal terms to thousands of Jews when he taught about the Eucharist: "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal flesh is real food and my blood is real drink" (John 6:54,55). Almost all of them rejected his teaching and left him that day. He didn't stop them, and say 'hey, you all misunderstood me'. They understood him correctly, and didn't believe him.

The Apostles also understood him correctly, but they DID believe Him even though they didn't understand. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we believe" (Jn 6:68).


At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

Fr. Greg-

Regarding Luther, my understanding was that he did NOT reject the real presence but rather the concepts of 1)the priest having anything to do with the bread and wine becoming body and blood and 2)the sacrifice of the Mass.

I understand that as time passed since he was excommunicated, he became more hardened and more resolutely anti-Catholic and that much of his theology reflects this. I am not aware that he ever denied the real presence however.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Nick, great points. Luther struggled with the teaching on the Real Presence, and didn't out and out reject him completely. What he taught was consubstantiation which means that it is the Body of Christ along with bread. That is the teaching of many current Lutheran churches. Mostly, they see it as the Body of Christ during a particular service, but afterwards, it is just bread and is put back in a cabinet or something.

Luther was one of the Reformers who struggled very much with the Eucharist, but in the end, rejected transubstantiation as well as the importance of the priest and Mass, as you mentioned. He believed in some kind of presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but would have called it more of a spiritual presence than anything.

The main point is that Luther rejected the Church's teaching in full about the Eucharist and so many other things. Not a very good idea for oneself and for so many who follow him. Luther was a brilliant priest and was right in questioning the Church about indulgences, but went too far with it when he denied doctrine and sacraments.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Derek Smitt said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Derek Smitt said...

Father Greg-

What's going on dude? I figured no one is posting on the GW Q&A, so I went to this Q&A to read comments and make my own if that is alright. In your words, the Eucharist is a COOL thing. It gives for me hope, strength, and courage to take on the day and even the week. I came to have a greater understanding, not complete understanding, of the Eucharist when I was at boot camp. Going to mass daily to only one day a week, lets you realize just how important the Eucharist is. Not only did I feel the bread and wine was missing from my daily routines, but more than that, that is Jesus. Going to Sunday mass and during the consecration when the Chaplin held up the body of Christ, I was like wow He is here even at this place, which seemed like hell! After receiving it, no matter how mush the DI's messed with us I felt I was able to handle it and make it through all the pains because someone else was there with me. During the end of the week when I was getting frustrated at the DI's and my fellow recruits, I knew what I needed to increase my strength to make it through. This taught me that I took the Eucharist, along with many other things for granted. We get into this routine of going to mass every Sunday or daily, and I guess it does start to become just a "symbol". Now I am not condoning "skipping" mass so one deprives themselves of the Eucharist, I am just saying in my personal experience, when not having the chance to receive as much as I would have liked, the pain and suffering I went through at good ol' Parris Island, has helped me a lot. As I said before, I do not completely understand the Eucharist, and, as much as I would and stride to understand more, I am glad I do not because putting my faith in Jesus Christ and putting faith in the words he spoke at the last supper, is a great feeling!

A good Bible passage I like is Luke 24. It is the two disciplines on the road to Emmaus.

Well, hope I made some sense!


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