Anguish of Jesus and His Haunting Words about the Eucharist
Have you ever experienced the kind of deep anguish that comes from having to speak truthful but potentially hurtful words to a friend; the kind of words that, though necessary, could end your relationship? Perhaps we don’t often think of it that Jesus too experienced this heart wrenching anguish. After gaining many followers through his powerful preaching, Jesus began to speak about the Eucharist. He says, “… the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Elsewhere in scripture he re-enforces this teaching saying, “Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you.” And, “This is my Body, this is my blood… Do this in remembrance of me.” For many they could not believe that Jesus could change bread and wine into his body and blood to come inside of us. And so, on that day, to the disappointment of our Lord, many stopped following him and, to use a familiar facebookism, they unfriended him.
Transubstantiation As Described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Based on these words of Jesus, Christians from the very beginning were Eucharistic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states clearly: Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.
Another Angle to the Eucharist
About important things, it’s important to use precise language and this is why I quote the Catechism. And to complement this, I would like to propose another way of approaching the same truth.
Memory of Deceased Father Lives on in Son
Let us reflect on the experience of a young man who suffered the tragedy of the sudden death of his father. After the Funeral Mass was complete the family proceeded to the cemetery for the final prayers, after which the young man, rendered speechless on account of the grief, dropped a small piece of paper into the grave underneath the casket that read, ”To my Dad, what can I say? You are the man I’ve always wanted to be and hopefully become. …. If you look deep in your heart, Dad, all the good qualities that you see, know that you passed them on to me. …I love you, Dad.”
Death changes Relationships, Puts them “On Hold”
Maybe the most terrible thing about death is that it breaks and severs relationships. Never will they be the same. Although, the memory of the father will live on in the son and he will continue to live out the life-lessons his father passed on to him, he will never see him again in this life. In many ways, their relationship is ON HOLD.
Jesus Breaks the Norm, He Finds a Way to Remain with Us, Real Presence
Now let’s come back and compare this to the Lord. When Jesus died, rose, and went back to Heaven, some thought that their relationship with him would be “on hold” as well. That like the young man, they will keep the memory of Jesus in their heart, pass on his teachings, and wait for the day when they will be able to speak to him again.
BUT, the Lord Jesus would not have any of this! He loved us too much to be separated from us like this. And so, he found a way to remain with us … the Holy Eucharist. It’s not just a memory, not just the lessons of a great teacher, but a true presence, his presence! When we look to that Consecrated Bread and Wine, we should know that Jesus conquered death and that his love found a way to continue to be near us until the end. His presence is hidden under the appearances of bride and wine, but no less real than when he spoke these words 2000 years ago.
Jesus said, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” These are words that are scandalous, first because we cannot see with our eyes the change that happens in the bread and wine when it becomes Jesus and secondly because it’s hard to imagine a God who loves us so much that he would hide himself under the appearances of bread and wine just to be with us. Jesus is not dead, our relationship is not “on hold”. He is near, so close in the Holy Eucharist, just waiting for us and hoping for our friendship.