Struggling to Believe in the Eucharist?
If you are Catholic and struggling to believe in the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, you are not alone. A Pew Research Center survey suggests:
So, nearly two-thirds of Catholics do not believe that the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ at Mass. This is important to discuss because this teaching is central to the Catholic Faith.
The reality, of course, is that this change does take place. The bread and wine offered at Holy Mass become, by the power and priesthood of Jesus Christ, His own Body and Blood.
“How can this come about?” Mary asked. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” theSt. John Damascene
angel answered, “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.”
And now you are the one who puts the question: “How can bread become Christ and
wine His Blood?” I answer: “The power of the Holy Spirit will be at work to give us a
marvel which surpasses understanding.”
What should you do, therefore, if you are struggling to believe? There are many things to do, but we would like to offer three starting points.
3 Ways To Grow In Your Belief Of The Eucharist
- Read the Scriptures
Read the Scriptures (especially the Gospels), trust that Jesus wants to nourish us, think through the implications, and draw on the living Tradition of the Church.
At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist as a memorial of His death and resurrection. He did this to perpetuate His sacrifice, which was to come, on the Cross until the end of time. He also instituted the priesthood at the same time.
The Sacred Scriptures are full of foreshadowing of the Eucharist, outright explanations of the Eucharist, and references back to the Eucharist. In a sense, every page points us to the Holy Eucharist. In a special way, the Gospels give us the words of Jesus Himself. So, it is worthwhile to spend some time reading or re-reading what He has to say about the Eucharist:
– Matthew 26:26-30 (Last Supper)
– Mark 14:22-26 (Last Supper)
– Luke 22:14-20 (Last Supper)
– John 6:22-59 (Bread of Life Discourse)
“This is the wonderful truth, my dear friends: the Word, which became flesh two thousand years ago, is present today in the Eucharist.”– St. John Paul II
2. Trust in Jesus’ Desire to Nourish Us
Jesus loves you and me. He gives us His Flesh as food because He wants to nourish us. He says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (Jn. 6:56).” Through His incarnation and birth, He humbled Himself to share in our humanity. In the Eucharist, we become united to the Person of Jesus Christ. Our mortal and sinfully inclined natures are transformed by our union to the font of life.
We must trust that our Lord wants the best for us. And the best that He can give us is Himself. Therefore, He desires to come to us in the humble form of food to nourish our bodies and souls. When we struggle to believe because our human senses fail, we need to see with the eyes of faith in our trust of Him.
“As the body cannot be sustained without corporeal food, nor continue in natural life,Dionysius the Carthusian
so without this life-giving food the soul cannot persist in the spiritual life of grace.”
3. Think it Through and Draw on Tradition
The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and not merely symbols. Jesus Christ Himself said, “This is my body” and “this is my blood.” The appearances remain but the substance has changed.
If the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, under the veil of a Sacrament, then worship makes sense. During the Mass, we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. The priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God” while holding up the Eucharist. He kneels and we kneel. If the Eucharist were merely a symbol, then we are worshipping bread and committing horrid blasphemy.
This is the reality: the Eucharist is either Jesus or we are worshipping bread.
“It is not the man who is responsible for the offerings as they become Christ’s BodySt. John Chrysostom
and Blood; it is Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The standing figure belongs
to the priest who speaks these words. The power and the grace belong to God. ‘This is
My Body,’ he says. And these words transform the offerings.”
What If The Eucharist Is Just A Symbol?
If the Eucharist is merely a symbol, then why has the Church been centered around it since the beginning? Why would each Mass necessarily include a celebration of the Eucharist?
The great southern Gothic writer, Flannery O’Connor, once wrote of going to dinner with some friends. Her friend was a lapsed Catholic and said that she remembers receiving the Eucharist as a child. She “thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one.”
Flannery O’Connor then proceeded to share her response to her friend:
“I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest is expendable.”
She also spoke well of the link between denying the physical reality of the Eucharist and the erosion of all around belief. She said, “When the physical fact is separated from the spiritual reality, the dissolution of belief is eventually inevitable.”
“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to HimSt. Francis de Sales
about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your
happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way
that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”