The feast of Corpus Christi (2 June) reminds us once again of the Scripture account so central to the Catholic Faith: "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt 26: 26-28).
The Acts of the Apostles tell us that, from the earliest times, Christians understood the Last Supper account as meaning Jesus himself was truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.
And lest there be any suggestion the words at the Last Supper were simply metaphorical, one has only to refer to John's Gospel (Chapter Six) where Jesus refers to himself as the "bread of life", prompting the reaction of some, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Instead of explaining his words as a figure of speech, in order to avoid misunderstanding, Jesus reiterated his position in even stronger language, stating categorically, "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 ... For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."
John's Gospel then records the impact of these unambiguous words: "Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"; and "After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him."
Yet, there is no reference to Our Lord pleading with these disciples to reconsider, because he did not intend to be taken literally. His words stood, remaining a sticking point for many potential followers, as they still do today.
In reality, the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is no less a mystery of Faith than the Incarnation itself - where the Creator God assumed human flesh. The proper human response? Life-changing awe and gratitude.
- Michael Gilchrist - Editor (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)