Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Jesus Is Real And Present In The Eucharist, Our Greatest Treasure

By Eric Girten


            The Eucharist – the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine – is the greatest treasure held by the Church.  It is through this sustaining mystery that Jesus Christ remains with and in us, and we with and in Him, until the end of the age.  It is at the table of the Lord that, when partaking worthily of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are united as One Person in Christ. 

            The Eucharist is not without basis.  It is not something conjured up by the Church hundreds of years after the fact to justify itself. 

            God has fed His people throughout history, prefiguring when God would give of Himself sacrificially through this spiritual food.  We see this in Leviticus (24), Exodus (25 and 39), Numbers (4), and the list goes on.

            Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means House of Bread, and born in a manger – a trough from which common animals eat. 

            We take the command of the Lord at the Last Supper at His Word when he states to us that“this is my body…this is my blood of the covenant….” This was no parable for teaching, and there were no metaphors mixed in here.  He was crystal clear in these words and commanded us to “do this in memory of me.”

            Even before His last meal with his apostles, Jesus began to teach this to the people.  In John (6), He states that “I am the bread of life.”

            Now, this next point is very enlightening.  We continue in the sixth chapter of John (6, 53-56) where Jesus states, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

            As we read on, we find that this saying was hard for many who were listening; but Jesus did not back away from these words nor did he explain them away.  He meant what He meant.  As a result, we find in John (6, 66) that,“as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

            So, from the beginning, there were those who could not or would not believe in the true presence of the Eucharist.  However, following the example of Christ himself, the Church does not shy away from the beauty and wonder of the Eucharist.  Nor did the early Christians shy away from this teaching. 

            In 1 Corinthians (10), we find Paul writing regarding the Eucharist: “…is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”  Paul later goes on to write that if we partake of the Eucharist unworthily, then we are “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.”  These are strong words that Catholics and non-Catholics alike should offer to God in prayer and reflection.

            Finally, we can look at the early Christians to gain insights from their understandings, for they were not separated by centuries of debate and schism.  The Didache, a late first century document, states that the people should assemble on the Lord’s Day to break bread and offer thanks.

            St. Ignatius of Antioch (late first century/early second century) knew St. Polycarp and, as a child, heard St. John preach.  He writes that, “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ….” He writes this as well: “I have no taste for the food that perishes nor the pleasures of this life.  I want the bread of God, which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed.”