Eucharist: The Body Of Christ

I attended Catholic Mass this Sunday with a relative.

This relative is a devout Catholic, and has boldly resisted all attempts at conversion from Protestant relatives (including me) and friends. This relative is Catholic until the end, and that’s that. When I was a kid in Catholic school, one of my nuns used to say “nobody can tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.” Well, regarding the Catholic relative I tried to convert, God’s laugh appears to be on me.   

This Is My Body

During Mass this Sunday, the priest raised the communion wafer and the wine as he said the words, “this is my body” and “this is the cup of my blood.” At that moment, Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

~ Matthew 26:26-28

I Was Wrong

Whereas Catholics believe (and have believed for 2,000 years) that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, much of American Christianity believes that the bread and wine are merely symbolic, and do not transform into the real presence of Jesus Christ. I believed this for nine years. But I believe it no more. I was wrong. (In fact, much of American Christianity doesn’t even use wine. They use grape juice, which in my opinion is unbiblical.)

Fathers Know Best

What changed my mind? The early church fathers. It’s a very simple test. Are we (2,000 years removed) correct in guessing that Jesus wanted us to symbolically consume crackers and grape juice? To answer this question, we need only ask the men who learned from the Apostles.

The Apostles were Christ’s dinner guests at the Last Supper, and they passed on their teaching to their students, who passed it on to their students, who passed it on to their students, who passed it on to their students, in an unbroken and fiercely defended line of teaching.

Here is what that teaching says:

“Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heretics… They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.” ~ Ignatius of Antioch, written 80-110 AD

Ignatius heard the Apostle John preach. Am I to believe the devout Ignatius, who was fed to the lions and martyred for refusing to deny Christ, and who learned from the Apostle John, and who wrote in 80-100 AD, or am I to believe a modern American pastor, who, devout as he or she may be, is 2,000 years removed from these events and cannot trace his pastoral lineage back in an unbroken and fiercely guarded line directly to these events? To me, the choice is clear. 

And what does Justin Martyr say about all this?

“This food we call the Eucharist we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer… is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” ~ Justin Martyr, written 148-155 AD

Justin Martyr was born just after 100 AD in the Holy Land, in what is today called the West Bank. He was “the most important apologist of his day, and patron of apologists” (The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin).

Father Knows Best

Justin Martyr was killed for his faith. Am I to believe Justin Martyr, a man born in the Holy Land, a man who grew up around people who actually heard the Apostles teach, a man martyred for refusing to deny what he believed, or am I to believe a modern American pastor, who, devout as he may be, is 2,000 years removed from these events and cannot trace his pastoral lineage back in an unbroken and fiercely guarded line directly to these events? To me, the choice is clear.

I can keep this up for a very long time. The list of quotes from early church fathers on this topic is pages and pages long. In my years attending Evangelical churches, I heard an unending plethora of extra-Biblical sources quoted from the pulpit– Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Wesley, to name just a few. All of these sources are very recent, 500 years old or newer.

Yet I never heard the early church fathers quoted, despite the fact that the fathers offer a precious snapshot of what Christianity looked like in its infancy, when Jesus Christ launched it. The reason, in my opinion, that the early church fathers are not quoted from Evangelical pulpits is because Christianity in its infancy was thoroughly Catholic, as the writings of the fathers clearly and shockingly show. 

The Unbroken Line

Earlier I mentioned that the Apostles passed on their teaching in an unbroken and jealously defended line of teaching. That line of teaching continues unbroken and jealously defended to this day. It’s called the Catholic Church.

Actual body and blood of Christ, or merely symbolic? Let’s ask Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. ~ Jesus Christ, John 6:53

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. ~ Jesus Christ, John 6:54

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. ~ Jesus Christ, John 6:55

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. ~ Jesus Christ, John 6:56

The Bible is always proven true.

I know from experience that the Evangelical church is packed with Jesus-loving, and Jesus-devoted Christians– this includes pastors and congregants. Evangelicals love the God of Israel, and love studying His Bible. These are some of the many reasons I loved being part of the Evangelical movement for nine years. To this day, I would gladly attend an Evangelical service. Evangelicals are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals rightly emphasize the need to search our own individual hearts for alignment with God’s will. I am merely asking Evangelicalism to extend this examination to the Evangelical movement as a whole. Thank you for reading.

4 replies »

  1. Tom, your blog entries of late are giving me such peace where just a week ago I was doubting I was in the right church. Raised Methodist, I converted to Catholicism 16 years ago so that my husband and I could share faith with our children from the same place. At the time of my conversion I still had a lot of Protestant-based doubts about the Catholic church: including the elevation of saints and Mary, the belief that Mary was born without original sin, the belief in “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins”, etc. But my husband, a life-long Catholic, shared similar doubts and thus I felt like I was doing the right thing. Fast-forward to 4 years ago when our beloved priest was ousted from the parish we’d called home for 14 years. We changed parishes hoping to find a new home but I never felt a connection. I listen to Christian radio and had recently heard a trusted radio ministry criticizing Pope Francis for various statements that seem contrary to Christian beliefs. I began to panic I’d done the wrong thing by agreeing to raise my kids (the oldest two now being in CCD) Catholic. I was familiar with your faith story. So I began praying for God to put a desire in our hearts for something more from our church. That He would lead our family to an Evangelical church. That He would remove us from the Catholic church. I have sat in a Catholic pew for 16 years with a Protestant skepticism of the books of Wisdom, Sirach, etc. not in my Bible. My eyes would inwardly roll when something was mentioned in a homily that was contrary to my childhood church’s teaching. And then, last week, I stumble across your post about communion. That gave me incredible peace. And now I am fully immersed in your blog, gobbling up your research. God bless you for having questions and searching for the truth. God bless you for being bold enough to write these things. I cannot wait to share them with my still Methodist mom.

  2. Karen,

    Thank you so much for the kind and encouraging words, and for sharing your story. I am very happy to hear that you have found a measure of peace.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” The early church fathers seemed to be unanimous about that subject, with all of them on the CATHOLIC side of the issue, not the Evangelical side. Your mom sounds like a sweetheart, so I hope and pray that she sees the truth about all these issues.

    The book I mentioned in the post above is an excellent resource. It lists quotes from the early church fathers on a multitude of topics, including baptism. The author is a former Protestant.

    Another great resource is http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/. It lists the writings of the early church fathers IN THEIR ENTIRETY. This is important because sadly I have seen Evangelical websites misrepresenting what the fathers wrote in an attempt to make the fathers sound supportive of Evangelical doctrine. But when I went and read the entirety of the writing, it always supports the Catholic side.

    The Catholic Church is the Church established by Jesus Christ. Every modern-day Catholic priest is part of an unbroken line of Apostolic succession stretching backward in time through the 2,000 years of the Christian era directly to the Apostles and Jesus Christ himself. I heard one teacher summarize this unbroken line as an extension cord, one end of which we hold in our hands today in the modern era, but which stretches backward 2,000 years and plugs directly into the power source. The “electric” power of the Holy Spirit is transmitted through this line directly from Christ back then to us today. NONE of the tens of thousands of Protestant denominations can make this claim. Only the Catholic Church can.

    The Christianity of the early church fathers looks like Catholicism of today. The tradition has been THAT fiercely guarded through all these centuries.

    “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” ~ John Henry Cardinal Newman

    I am discovering more each day just how true that statement is.

    Thank you, and God bless you!

  3. I will most certainly look into the resources you suggest. This journey to find the right church is so important; while I want to be sure I’m getting it right, possibly more important is that I’m teaching my children what’s right & true. God has entrusted these four little miracles to us and I don’t want to mess it up! I would love to hear your thoughts on issues I’ve struggled with including the “Immaculate Conception”, the difference between what’s considered a sacrament for Catholics and a sacrament for Protestants (I was taught it’s only a sacrament if Jesus participated in it himself, therefore marriage is not a sacrament, nor is First Holy Communion), praying to Mary and the Saints rather than praying directly to God, rote prayers such as the rosary…

    Thank you again for your dedication to this blog! I am sure many are benefitting from your research!

  4. Tom and Karen
    Remember when Jesus said , “Who ever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood has no life in them,” (John 6:51-72). Also note how many of his disciples abandoned him and left him and therefore stop following him. Notice that he did not stop them and tell them that this was just a symbolic statement. That is because he meant it literally. Now remember when Nicodemus came to him and Jesus told him, “Unless you are born again from above you can not enter the kingdom of God.” Notice how Nicodemus didn’t understand this and he asked Jesus, ” How is it that a man can enter into his mother’s womb again?” Since he was confused and did not understand Jesus clarifies what he really mean. “Unless you are born or water and spirit you can not enter the kingdom of God.”
    The point is he did not bother to correct the disciples who left him because they did not understand. That is because he meant what he said. He meant it so much that he also risked losing the 12 disciples by turning to them and asking them if they were going to leave also? They didn’t of course but you get the point.
    Tom you are correct about the Catholic Church. Karen God gave you your answer. Now it is time to learn and get closer to him. God bless you both.


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