Holy Thursday: How can we know the Eucharist is real?
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The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian faith. It is at the heart of our Catholic belief. But why? Does it deserve this distinction? How do we know this is real?
How do we know the Eucharist is real?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Our Lord commanded the celebration of the Eucharist during the Last Supper. During His last meal on earth, Our Lord broke bread with His disciples and proclaimed it to be His Body. Next, He passed a cup of wine and declared it to be His Blood. (1 Cor 11:24)
Today, we recognize the Eucharist as the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. But how do we know this is so?
In our fallen world, we are taught to see things from the material perspective. There is a notion that the only things that exist are those that science can perceive. It's a remarkable conclusion. Even scientists talk about the "multiverse" and "before" the Big Bang and such. Science cannot peer outside of the universe. It cannot probe into a realm before creation. It cannot discern the soul, or make any sense of the supernatural. In fact, that's what supernatural means. The natural realm is the domain of science. The supernatural realm is the domain of faith. Of course, logic applies to our faith, just as it does to science. God is the author of logic and reason, so it makes sense that these tools help us to understand Him.
When properly used, science can inform us about the natural world and helps us to make decisions. But science cannot inform us about God. It can provide some tantalizing clues. With science, we can see the fingerprint of God in creation. But that seems to be its natural limit. It is tragic to see some people rely upon it alone to understand creation. It is a form of blindness.
This presents a problem when trying to understand the Eucharist. The skeptic expects the Eucharist to turn into a chunk of bleeding flesh. They want to see the wine turn red, before they will believe. Otherwise, they insist the Eucharist is a symbol, instead of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Compounding this, when we take Communion we taste an unleavened bread. We taste wine, not blood. Our senses tell us what we receive is at best, a symbol. Many Christians fall victim to this deception.
So how do we know we are consuming the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? The secret is to understand what is actually happening.
First, the priest stands "In Persona Christi." That means, "in the person of Christ." The priest is present at the altar, but so is Jesus. It is Jesus Christ who transubstantiates the Eucharist. Transubstantiation refers to the turning of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Because Jesus does this Himself, and is present with us, we are participating in the Last Supper. We are as present as the disciples were.
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This is where faith enters the equation.
God cannot make a mistake. He does not mislead. He does not deceive. He does not make any errors. Rather, He commands, and it becomes so. When Jesus says that bread and wine become His Body and Blood, they become so. Even if their outward form does not appear to change, they are so. This is what happened at the Last Supper. The accounts do not mention the bread turned to flesh and blood. Yet, Jesus said "this is" about both. Therefore, they are. This is exactly what's happening when the gifts become the Body and Blood of Our Lord.
No scientific scrutiny can assess such a transformation. Yet it becomes true by the power of Christ. As Christians, we accept this as dogma. This is why the Eucharist is the "source and summit of our Christian faith." For if Jesus misspoke, if He misled, lied, or made an error, then He is not God. If the Eucharist is not His Body as He proclaimed, then He is not God.
Therefore, this is how we know the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. For it is is not so, then Jesus Christ is not God, and all is in vain. Fortunately, logic, reason, and faith combine in this miracle to affirm our belief.
If you want to see more "Tough Questions," from Professor Marshall Connolly, consider supporting Catholic Online School, a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation.
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