Light of my Life

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

Posted on: March 20, 2008

Anyone who knows anything about the Catholic church knows that we believe when the priest holds up the host and says the words Jesus spoke at the last supper, “This is my body, given up for you,” at that moment the bread ceases to be bread and becomes Jesus himself: body, blood, soul, and divinity.

I can see how this would be a difficult concept for a non-Catholic to accept. After all, no obvious visual changes take place. It still looks like bread. It still tastes like bread. And I would grant that if it really isn’t true, then we Catholics really are not Christians at all, and are committing idolatry in a terrible way, worshiping a piece of bread. But obviously we believe it is true, and I submit that we have very good reasons for believing so. Now, I am not gifted when it comes to apologetics so I doubt I can explain or defend the Catholic position very well, but I’ve been thinking about this today after listening to a particularly inspirational talk by Father Corapi, and I wanted to share some thoughts.

First, I was thinking about the words Jesus spoke that night, “Do this in remembrance of me.” I know that many Protestant denominations have what they call The Lord’s Supper at least a few times a year. I’ve been told that it is usually only done a few times a year because of the fear that “familiarity breeds contempt;” or in other words, it wouldn’t be as special if it were done more often. I can’t quite accept that reasoning, though. I tell my husband and children ten times or more a day how much I love them, and I mean it every time. I can’t envision David asking me to cut back to 3 or 4 times a year so that he’ll be sure it really means something.

The other thing I was thinking is, if it was really just an ordinary bread-and-wine passover meal, why on earth would Jesus have commanded us to do this? What does the Last Supper even mean if you don’t believe He meant it when He said “This is my body”? Why would the Bible make such a big deal about a scene in which Jesus simply shared a meal with His disciples? He does not ask us to re-create any other scenes from His ministry.

In John 6, the famous Bread of Life discourse, Jesus said that His flesh was food indeed, and His blood was drink indeed (Jn 6:55). In verse 54, He says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” The Greek word for “eat” in that verse is “trogo,” which was not the classical Greek verb used in reference to human eating, and literally means to munch or gnaw. I believe this verb was chosen specifically by John to emphasize that Jesus meant what He said, literally.

And what does Paul have to say about the Eucharist? Well, in 1 Cor 10:16, he says, “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” And in chapter 11, verse 29-30, he says even more clearly, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.”

If the Lord’s Supper is just a memorial meal and a symbol, what makes it so serious that partaking in it unworthily would cause people to die? to bring about God’s judgment?

And what did the early church believe about the Eucharist? Here is a good link with many quotations from early Christian writings which support the Catholic church’s position. The most notable, I think, is Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote circa 110 A.D., “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 which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again.” Ignatius was a disciple of John, so unless John was completely ineffective and misleading in his evangelism, it’s not likely that Ignatius misunderstood him on this very crucial point of teaching.

So there you have it, my thoughts on the issue. I welcome your questions and comments on this or any other matter of Catholic teaching. You can either leave a comment on this post or send me an email at erinmlee@hotmail.com (but forgive me if it takes me a while to respond; sometimes I’m just really slow about email).

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About Me


I'm Erin, a 32-year-old homeschooling mother of three, doing my best to raise my children in the Catholic faith... (more)

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