Voices Online Edition
Vol. XVIII: No. 3 - Michaelmas 2003
Winner of Voices Young Writer's Award Contest
The REAL Presence
by Claire Cote
Claire Cote is a Junior in high school at Our Lady by the Sea Academy, which is a home school high school started by her and a group of friends (and their moms, of course). She lives in San Juan Capistrano, California, with her parents, three sisters, one brother and three cats. Home-schooled since the first grade, Claire is involved in sports, studies karate, and has been taking piano lessons for as long as she can remember. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the beach, surfing, reading and hanging out with her friends. (Editor's note: Claire's identical twin sister, Leah, was a finalist in the Young Writers contest!)
[Details about the Young Writers Award.]
The end of Mass is nearing. You watch the priest as he washes his hands, and then begins some silent prayers over the offering. You glance at your watch. "Come on", you think. "I have to get home! How much longer could this take?!" Feeling the pressure of the hard kneeler against your tired knees, you become antsy. Just in time, though, you look toward the altar once more and watch as the priest lifts a small wafer of pure white bread high into the air. You become transfixed on the image, but you don't know why! What is suddenly so mesmerizing about that little piece of unleavened bread? Oh, if only you knew.
Today in our busy, fast-paced lives, we Catholics sometimes forget what a gift we have been given. We may take for granted the fact that God sent His own Son to die for us. We don't realize that this is the true basis of our whole Church. We occasionally forget that, when we go to Mass, we are really and truly receiving Jesus Christ, in the form of bread and wine, into our bodies and into our souls. In some cases, it is possible to think that we have been greatly influenced by those outside our faith, who ask in horror, "Is it true that Catholics drink blood?" or "Do you really believe that those pieces of bread are some guy's flesh?"
We have heard, listened to, and maybe even tried to respond to some of these questions, but what are our real answers? Do you really believe that you are eating a man's flesh when you receive communion? Do you truly believe that when you take the cup, it is full of Christ's Blood? Hard to answer, isn't it?
Some things that we Catholics should learn about in order to help us reply to these queries are, first, the history of the Eucharist: where it came from and why it is so important. Next, we need to know what Catholics believe (or what they are supposed to believe) about the Eucharist. Then, we need to truly understand and believe in our hearts that the bread and wine served at Mass are, in fact, Jesus the Son of God (not just a snack in case you get hungry during Mass). We, as Catholics, should know and understand all of these things about the Holy Eucharist, the basis of our Catholic Faith.
The History of the Eucharist
And Jesus said to them: "I am the bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world. The Jews then argued among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" And Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you shall have no life within you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him". (Jn 6:51-57)
Before He died, Jesus began telling His followers about the wonderful sacrifice He was going to make by offering Himself as our offering and eternal food. There are many times that Jesus tells us these things in the Bible. He even goes on to say that if you do not eat His flesh and drink His Blood, you will not have eternal life with Him! You see, Christ wants us to be close to Him. So close, in fact, that He will even become part of our very beings. When we receive Communion, Jesus literally enters our bodies and we are one with Him and He with us, just as He promised we would be.
The first consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus was performed by Jesus at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday night. There are four distinct accounts of that happening by three of the Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke, and one by Saint Paul. "Take ye and eat. This is my Body ... drink ye, all of this. For this is my blood ... which will be shed for many". (Mt 26:26-28)
What Should WE Believe?
What would you say if I told you that only 30% of modern Catholics believe in the Real Presence? Well, it's true. A mere 30% of Catholics today believe that the sacrament of Holy Communion is actually Jesus, the Son of God. Many think, "Oh, sure, it's a symbol of God". But, no, it's the real thing. Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion in order to remain with us until the end of time (Jn 14:18). He intended us to believe in Him and, doing so, eat His Body and drink His Blood so that our life would be eternal. If we do not believe, we are not fulfilling His plan. Furthermore, the deeper our trust in this Presence, the more surely we will be saved; the more surely we will be sanctified; and the more effectively -- beyond our wildest dreams -- shall we bring not hundreds, but thousands of souls to Christ. In other words, you can't not believe in this glorious mystery of the Eucharist.
Is it REALLY God?
For nearly 2000 years the Catholic Church has been centered on the belief of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and there are legitimate evidences of this belief from as far back as 90 AD. One of the greatest witnesses to this truth was Saint Ignatius. While imprisoned in Rome, he wrote letters to his Christian community: "That you may obey the bishop and the priesthood with inseparable intention, breaking one Bread, which is the medicine of mortality and the antidote against death, giving life forever in Jesus Christ". He wrote also of heretics: "They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they do not acknowledge the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins.... They, therefore, speaking against the gift of God, die in their dissension".
Where else could you find such an explicit statement? That one says it all! This truth has been proven, many times over by various writers, teachers, saints, and other influential people as well. Evidence to the very early belief in the Eucharist is also displayed in ancient liturgies, in the catacombs, and many other places as well. All these things, therefore, conspire to clarify the fact that the Blessed Sacrament is, in fact, God Himself.
How wonderful it is to think that we have a God looking out for us who loves us so much that He gave His own Son to be our food. We Catholics need to think about that a little more often than we do. God gave Himself up for us, and we should at least be willing to do the same for Him! Our Catholic Faith is the faith of Jesus Christ and we should follow His plan by believing in Him as our Savior, our Redeemer, our Christ, our God ... and even a little piece of bread.
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