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The Happy Priest Reflects on the Miracle of the Eucharist
By Fr. James Farfaglia
July 30th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
When the priest repeats the words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, the bread is no longer bread, and the wine is no longer wine. Instead, the entire substance of the bread and the entire substance of the wine have been changed into the substance of The Body and Blood of Christ. The Fathers of the Church give witness to the fact that Jesus did not give us a symbol of himself, but rather he empowered his Church to continue his presence throughout the world.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - A casual glance at the daily news provides ample evidence of the worldwide chaos caused by many who have rejected God. Rapidly accelerating violence, unbridled hedonism, heedless consumption of resources and rampant corruption, now exceeding previously unimaginable dimensions have resulted from the actions of those who have foolishly tossed aside the truth of Jesus Christ to indulge in their own insatiable proclivities.
Only Jesus can satisfy the deepest aspirations of the human spirit. Only Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Only Jesus is the way to the Father. Only through Jesus can we hope to gain eternal life in Heaven. The foolish and the ignorant reject this truth. When Christianity is abandoned, the results are devastating.
Jesus remains with us in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church. His Real Presence is celebrated and adored in the monstrance placed in every chapel dedicated to Perpetual Adoration. He is with us, not just spiritually, but sacramentally as well. This is the miracle of the Eucharist.
The sixth chapter of the Gospel of John is known for Jesus' teaching on the Eucharist. For the next five weeks, the Catholic liturgy will remind us that we possess an immense treasure.
When a Catholic priest takes a little piece of unleavened bread and repeats the words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, "This is my body," and when he takes a small of amount of wine in a chalice and says, "This is my blood," the bread is no longer bread and the wine is no longer wine.
At every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we participate in a marvelous miracle, the miracle called, in the Latin or Western Catholic Church, Transubstantiation. Belief in the truth of this Mystery of the Faith dates back to its instituion by Jesus Christ Himself. It is affirmed by the unbroken witness of the Apostolic Fathers and the magisterium of the Church.
"The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend. In the most blessed sacrament of 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 substantially contained. This presence is called real - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be real too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1374).
Transubstantiation cannot be proven through scientific experimentation. If we were to examine reverently a consecrated host using a high-powered microscope lens, the physical attributes of bread would be obvious. If we were to do to the same with the precious blood, the physical attributes would be that of wine.
Transubstantiation belongs to the reality of faith. Faith does not contradict reason. Instead, the gift of faith that we receive at Baptism, gives us a superior vision.
Transubstantiation means "change of substance", or "change of reality."
When the priest repeats the words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, the bread is no longer bread, and the wine is no longer wine. Instead, the entire substance of the bread and the entire substance of the wine have been changed into the substance of The Body and Blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation occurs only by the power of God, and in a way that we cannot empirically detect.
We know that transubstantiation takes place through the certainty of faith. Jesus, the Son of God; Jesus the Messiah; Jesus the Lord and Savior of the universe said: "This is my body"; "This is my blood".
Faith is a vision superior to reason, but it does not contradict reason, precisely because faith relies upon the authority of God who does not deceive, nor can be deceived. Jesus is the truth and thus is incapable of lying.
The Fathers of the Church give witness to the fact that Jesus did not give us a symbol of himself, but rather he empowered his Church to continue his presence throughout the world.
J.N.D. Kelly, a renowned Protestant scholar who studied the history of the early church extensively, affirmed that this is true when he wrote: "Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior's body and blood" (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).
As early as 110 A.D., St. Ignatius of Antioch said: "Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh that suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1).
Around the year 151 A.D., St. Justin wrote to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius these words: "We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66).
There is no doubt that Jesus was not speaking symbolically. "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world" (John 6: 51).
In this Sunday's passage from the beginning of the sixth chapter of Saint John's gospel, Jesus and his Apostles are confronted with a dilemma. Multitudes of people have come from long distances to hear his teachings, and they are tired and hungry.
Philip, the pessimist, sees no solution to the problem. He simply gives up. Andrew, on the other hand, has faith in Jesus and knows what he can do with very little. Jesus likes his suggestion and takes the five barley loaves and the two fish from the little boy.
"Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted" (John 6: 11).
Many times people do not come to Jesus because they feel unworthy. They may feel despite their efforts that their lives cannot be changed, or that there are no solutions to their problems.
The little boy in this Sunday's gospel passage reminds us that Jesus can do anything so long as we let Him do it. The little boy turned over to Jesus all that he had. From this we can learn that it is precisely in our weakness that we experience the grace of God.
When Jesus walked the earth, barley bread was the least expensive form of bread and thus the most despised by the people. The fish that the little boy had brought to Jesus were small sardine like fish. Large fresh fish were a luxury, whereas small pickled fish from Galilee were known all over the Roman Empire.
However, we must remember that the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is not intended to explain the Christian virtues of generosity and service. The meaning is clear. Just as Jesus, true God and true man, can suspend the laws of nature and performs a miracle with the loaves and fishes, he can also take bread and wine and transform them into himself.
In every Catholic Church or chapel we can come to Jesus as we are: weak, small, sinful and limited because he is truly and really there waiting for us.
If Jesus can feed the crowds with the loaves and the fish, if Jesus can change bread and wine into himself, just think what he can do with you if you bring him what you have.
Father James Farfaglia, is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. Visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org.
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