How the anniversaries can sneak up on us! Looking back on that May 12, 1963 in Corpus Christi Church in suburban Cincinnati, I remembered feeling happy for my parents as well. Even for a first-born, it was probably odd for me as an 8-year old to be taking in the moment for what it meant to them as well. The magnitude of the event was certainly not lost on me that day!
Much has happened in the succeeding half-century. I have gone from being a third grader with two younger sisters to being the patriarch of the U.S. branch of the family (my Colombian father died in 1995) with three children in their twenties. Reviewing my life as a son, then as a father to my current point in life leaves me with mixed feelings.
The same can be said for our United States. There has been some progress in areas of social justice, but a majority of our accomplishments have been technological. Just over six months after my big day in May of ’63, President Kennedy was killed. Five years later, Dr. King and the President’s brother Bobby were also assassinated. Since then our abundantly blessed nation has spiraled into the current post-Christian era where moral relativism is dominant. Technology is the darling, wisdom the neglected child.
Fortunately for humanity, some things remain steadfast and unchangingly true. One of these is the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
We can choose from a number of Scripture verses to confirm this in addition to the fact that this sacrament was understood by the disciples to be His Body and Blood from the moment Christ instituted it on that original Holy Thursday.1
1) The words of Jesus at the Last Supper2,3
2) The Bread of Life Discourse when, for the only time, some of His followers left Him because they knew He was not speaking symbolically about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.4,5
3) St. Paul’s warning to treat the Eucharist with the utmost respect, something not befitting a mere symbol.6
Humanity’s spiritual decline can be reversed before it leads to inevitable ruin. My fervent wish is that all Christians may someday be reunified in the faith handed down by Christ. What greater way to start than by understanding and appreciating one of His greatest gifts: His body and blood, available to us daily!
1 – (All of the quoted verses are taken from “The New Catholic Answer Bible,” Fireside Catholic Publishing, Wichita, KS, 2005 with the exception of footnote #5) “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and after He had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26) [Item #3 continues with some following verses in footnote #6]
2 – “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to His disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26: 26-28)
3 – “Then He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’” (Luke 22:19)
4 – excerpts include: “’I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’ 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 do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.’”… “Then many of His disciples who were listening said, ‘this saying is hard; who can accept it?’” … “As a result of this, many [of] His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” (John 6: 51-54, 60, 66)
Fr. Kevin Fete: “This is the only time that I can recall in the Gospel accounts when we have people walking away as a group from Jesus Christ.” Dr. Ray Guarendi: “You’re absolutely right. It IS the only time.” Fr. Fete: “Now there is the story about the rich man who doesn’t want to separate himself from his things, and he walks away sadly.” Dr. Guarendi: “But he wasn’t a follower.” (Episode 5 in “What Catholics Really Believe,” Nineveh’s Crossing, Novi, MI, 2010)
5 – Dr. Guarendi: “’This IS my body,’ not, ‘This represents my body.’… not, ‘This symbolizes my body.’ He didn’t say, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ because He means it’s a memorial meal. John is saying, ‘No, no, no, no, no. Anybody who’s got doubts about this, let me rehammer this home.” … Later in this episode, Dr. Guarendi: “’It is the spirit that gives life, while flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’ (John 6:63) So some say, ‘See, He wasn’t speaking literally, He was speaking symbolically… ‘Spirit’ never means “symbol” in Scripture, does it? When you say, ‘The words are spirit,’ there’s no place in Scripture where ‘spirit’ is ever translated as ‘symbol.’ Spirit is real.” (Ibid.)
6 – “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11: 27-29)