THE MASS AS HEAVEN ON EARTH?
Of all the many reasons there are for attending Mass, this post describes the most important — the Eucharist!
Numerous Catholics take the miracle of the Eucharist for granted, with many dismissing it outright. In a shocking (and sad) survey done by Pew Research, it was revealed seventy percent of all Catholics do not believe the bread and wine are transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist. Yet, of all the topics we might discuss, can anyone pose a question of greater importance? If the Eucharist is what the Church (and the Bible) proclaim, every person on earth should want to receive Communion in Catholic churches across the globe. If the teachings about the Eucharist are correct, each time you drive past a Catholic church, you are driving past Christ — for He is truly there in every Catholic tabernacle waiting for us to visit Him, to adore Him, to pray to Him, releasing our worries and needs to Him. It is a case of Heaven and God present with us on earth!
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith. Each time we receive Holy Communion, we receive the Real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Take note: Jesus made one sacrifice for us; we do not re-sacrifice the Lord during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Instead, when we receive Communion, we are entering the once-for-all sacrifice of the cross worked by Christ. The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving, it is a memorial, and it is a real sacrifice by offering the same Body and Blood that Jesus sacrificed on the cross once for all. That sacrifice is atoning.
Where in the Bible can we find the teachings regarding the Real Presence? Consider Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse in the following passage:
I am the bread of life…Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at 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. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?…After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;… [John 6:48-69 RSV-CE, italics added]
In the passage above, Jesus proclaims Himself to be the Bread of Life. Jesus also stated His Body and Blood are food and drink, and we must eat His Body and Drink His Blood if we desire eternal life. Some will say Jesus was speaking metaphorically; however, the passage reveals many of Jesus’ followers could not handle the Lord’s teachings about eating His flesh, which caused them to walk away. If Jesus was speaking symbolically or metaphorically, why would there be any reason for many of His followers to leave him? In the Last Supper discourses, Jesus stated the bread and wine become His Body and Blood:
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. [Luke 22:19-20 RSV-CE]
The Church uses the word transubstantiation when referring to the transformation of the bread and wine into Jesus’ Real Body and Blood. The process remains a mystery, though Saint Paul made it evident the bread and wine become Jesus’ Body and Blood:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? [1 Corinthians 10:16-17]
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which 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.”…Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. [1 Corinthians 11:23-30; RSV-CE, italics added]
Saint Paul affirms that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, with proof in his statement:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” A person cannot profane the Body and Blood of Christ if they are consuming a mere symbol. Notice, in this passage, Saint Paul also touches upon the Sacrament of Confession: “…let a man examine himself…”
The Real Presence is one of the most Biblically supported truths of the faith, we could cite many more passages. It was universally accepted in the early church and has always been held by the Roman Catholic Church. Here is one example of the many statements made by a Church father:
“Take Note of those who hold heterodox [the holding of unorthodox views] opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . 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. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.” [Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110].
There are hundreds of statements from the early Church that support the Real Presence. Please consider this excerpt from “Understanding the Scriptures:”
The thank offering or “sacrifice of thanksgiving” became the primary liturgy celebrated at the Temple, rather than the sin offering. The thank offering was unleavened bread and wine freely offered to God in gratitude for deliverance. Ancient Jewish teachers predicted that, when the Messiah came, no other sacrifice would be offered; the thank offering alone would continue. The word for “thank offering” in Hebrew, todah, was often translated by ancient Jewish scholars (like Philo) with the Greek word, “eucharistia,” which resonates with the language of Jesus and the early Church.
Readers might wonder why we quoted the various passages above. The purpose is to establish the truth of the Real Presence in the hearts of Catholics. The early Church, as well as the Church throughout history, has always held the truth of the Real Presence. Churches who do not accept these truths have broken away from the early church and the teachings of Christ, as reflected in the Bible.
Jesus promised He would be with us until His return, and He does that through His Real Presence in the Eucharist (this is different than and should not be confused with the presence of the Holy Spirit whenever two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name). Heaven comes to earth during every Mass; therefore, if one desires to have a foretaste of heaven, they need to look no further than the Mass and the Eucharist.
The Real Presence forms a stumbling block for many people, including many Catholics (it is difficult for them to believe, as was the case for so many of Jesus’ followers in the Bread of Life discourse); however, many Christians have no problem believing that Jesus rose from the dead, or that God created everything from nothing. Why, then, since we know God has worked many miracles, is it difficult to believe the Bread and Wine transform into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ? Is it not true every Christian holds many articles of faith without doubt?
There is no more powerful expression of being in Communion with the Saints, then when we receive our Risen Lord in the Eucharist, for where Jesus is, so is the Father, so is the Holy Spirit, so are the Angels and the Saints. The Eucharist provides a means through which we receive Jesus and a method through which we commune with the Father, the Holy Spirit, and all the heavenly hosts. How could any Catholic, or any person who has studied and learned of the Real Presence, stay away from such a fantastic gift? It is difficult to conceive of any reason to attend Mass that exceeds the reception of our Lord during Holy Communion; however, a joyful fact is that we do not have to receive the Lord in the Eucharist only on Sundays. If we desire, we can also receive the Lord every day during daily Mass, and we can worship our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration in many Catholic Churches. It is a joyful reality to know the Lord comes to us in the Eucharist every minute of every day during Masses held throughout the world and across all time zones. Praise God for this beautiful gift!
This topic continues in part three.
Thank you for reading,