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).
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.