Why we as Catholics believe the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in every Mass celebrated?
It is based on the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles and Evangelist who provided the written record we call scripture. But of course as evident by the presence of non-believers in the world, you can’t use the Bible to “prove” anything to those who choose not to believe. That said, there are many passages which show the Eucharist to be much more than a symbol or just “wheat and water” as one critic described it.
The first place to look is John 6:25-71 where Jesus promises the Eucharist. This account, which occupies 2/3 of the chapter, describes Jesus’ exchange with a crowd of disciples; probably numbering several thousand as this event follows the feeding of the 5,000 (most of the preceding 1/3 of the chapter) and these disciples have followed Him seeking more of this miraculous bread. After all, Moses provided bread for those who followed him during their wanderings in the desert. Jesus tells them that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven and those who come to Him will never be hungry.
The disciples do not understand and grumble because Jesus has said that He comes down from heaven, but they know that He is a man; they know His parents. Jesus again tells them that He is the living bread which came down from heaven and anyone who eats this bread will have eternal life. The disciples understand Him literally and begin to dispute among themselves because they don’t understand how He can give them His flesh to eat. Jesus then underscores this literal interpretation by stating four times (in four successive verses (53-56)) that they must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood or they will not have everlasting life. The Greek verb used in these four verses for “eat” is much stronger than the verb used earlier in this discourse; in this case, it literally means “chew, gnaw”; hardly a word to be taken symbolically. Jesus then tells the disciples that the “Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing”.
In other words, stop worrying about food for your flesh and start worrying about food for your Spirit (notice that he talks about “the flesh” and not “My flesh”; He is talking about the flesh of John 3:6). Then many of His disciples left Him–the only place in Holy Scripture where people cease to follow Him for a reason of doctrine–they have understood Him literally and He, who understands perfectly, does not seek to change or modify their understanding; because there is no misunderstanding. Jesus then asks His apostles if they wish to leave too but Peter, speaking for the rest, tells Him that although they don’t understand, they will continue to follow Him because they know that He has been sent by God for their salvation. It is interesting to note that this is the first time in the Bible where it is noted that Judas Iscariot will later leave to betray Him (Judas didn’t believe that Jesus could give His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink and so left at the Last Supper when the Eucharist was instituted).
The second place to look is one of the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper so let’s turn to Mark 14:17-26. This account is where the promise of John 6 to give His Body and Blood is fulfilled and it starts off by pointing out that Judas will leave to betray Him, the second time in the Bible that Judas’ betrayal is mentioned. During the Passover liturgy, the presiding elder explains the significance of the elements. Following this custom, Jesus takes the bread, and later the cup, and after giving thanks (the Greek word is eucharisteo) departs from the customary significance and instead says “this is My Body . . . this is My Blood.” When God speaks, what He pronounces comes into being (God said “Let there be light . . . “). He then says that His Blood is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.
This is the only time in Jesus’ recorded life where He uses the word “covenant”; a word which when used in the Jewish liturgical sense, means the forming of an irrevocable sacred family bond. Just as during the original Passover the blood marked the homes of the members of God’s family, so now, drinking His Blood marks the members of His family. The third place to look is 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 where St. Paul tells us that when we partake of the bread and the cup we participate in the Body and Blood of our Lord and that we are united because we all eat of the same loaf which is Christ. It is awfully hard to “partake of” and “participate in” something which is only figurative rather than real. The final place to look is 1 Corinthians 11:23-30. Here, St. Paul reminds us that although he was not present at the Last Supper, he received revelation directly from the Lord. St. Paul then gives us the same account of the happenings at the Last Supper with the clarification from Jesus to “do this in remembrance of Me”.
Remembrance for a Jew is a lot more than looking back fondly on a past event when a remembrance (memorial) sacrifice is offered, the participants are made present at the original event and participate in that event. Here, Jesus is telling His apostles to institute a perpetual memorial sacrifice for Him. St. Paul then goes on to warn the Corinthians, most of whom believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, that they are to exclude themselves from participation in the meal if they do not recognize that it is the real presence of the Lord or they will eat and drink damnation upon themselves. These words would not have been spoken because there would be no need for the warning if the Eucharist were a mere symbol.
Does this “prove” the Eucharist? It convinces me because I have only three choices:
- It is true;
- The Bible is wrong
- Jesus lied.
Of the three choices, only the first one is acceptable. Oh, one more thing, the Church taught it was true for over 1500 years before the so-called Reformation and 300 of which were before there was a bible. It has taught the same ever since.