Below are my comments to an anti-Catholic Baptist Minister who sent me an article criticizing the Catholic Church's teachings about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here was my response. What do you think? Did I miss something that holds the key to understanding? What would you have said? Let me know in the comments section that follows.
Let me begin my response to [Anonymous Name's] attempt to disprove the Eucharist as the Literal Presence of Jesus's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Instead of trying to respond to every objection in his infinite regressive interpretation of Catholic doctrine, I will respond as I see appropriate based on the facts of what the Church actually teaches.
First, he writes that the words of Jesus are not meant to be literal.
My comments: According to who? Because if it's according to Jesus, his comments are quite literal. In fact, the simplest answer to the question of "Why" as in "Why do we believe that the bread and wine is literally Jesus's Body and Blood?" is for the same exact reason my mom gave me throughout my life when I asked "Why" as in "Why can't I go here.... or do this.... or do that?" Her response? "Because I said so!" And so, for this reason, Catholics believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ.... because he said so. "...Take, eat; this is my body... this is my blood" (see Matthew 26:26-27). Note: Jesus did not say, "This is like my body.... This is like my blood." Yes, Jesus spoke metaphorically in other parts of Scripture saying that he was a "door" and a "vine", but there is no connection to Jesus' words about the Eucharist in them. [The idea that just because Jesus uses metaphors in a different part of the Gospels means absolutely nothing when it comes to the very literal language about the Eucharist.] ]In fact, Jesus speaks of the topic again, and emphasizes the literal meaning, in literal language, that he was pointing out to them: "For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55). Jesus continues: "As the living Father has sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (John 6:57). Goodness! Couldn't he have just said that anyone who "believes" in him would live? Was Jesus speaking literally? The Greek word used for "eat" is "trogon" which means "chewing" or "gnawing". That is a very blunt statement! Interesting choice of words. Literally!
So, what did Jesus's disciples think about his so called metaphorical language? Well... they didn't hear any when it comes to this topic! They took him literally. To a Jew, the very idea of eating a man's flesh and drinking his blood was scandalous! Forbidden by the Law! "Many of his disciples, when they heard it said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'" (John 6:60). Notice that it is during Christ's discourse of the Eucharist that Judas rejects Jesus! This is where the choice to turn away is front and center! "'But there are some of you that do not believe'. For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him" (John 6:64). Is Jesus talking about faith in general here? No... He's talking about eating his body and drinking his blood!
How did others respond? "After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him. Jesus said to the Twelve, "Will you also go away?" (John 6:66).
Why would many disciples leave him if he was only speaking symbolically? It's sort of an easy thing to digest, isn't it? If they interpreted Jesus as saying, "The bread is like my body.... the drink is like my blood!" Nope! They didn't take him symbolically.... afterall, there would be no scandal in that! They took him literally!
Now let's back up a little bit and consider the very plain words of Christ that Protestants love to use to attempt to prove that Jesus was only speaking symbolically, requiring faith in order to see the truth of his words. This begins John 6:63: "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life." According to fundamentalist Protestants, this is supposed to mean that what Jesus really was saying was "You must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, but it is useless to do so." Huh? It doesn't make sense. What does make sense? What makes resounding sense is that Jesus is telling us that it is meaningless to try to understand this without faith! And so, let's return to the Scriptures... "Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Will you also go away?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed..." (John 6:68). The apostles didn't understand Jesus either! But they "believed". Trying to understand what he was saying was useless for the "flesh", but required faith!
Other Scriptures in the New Testament letters also reinforce the literal interpretation that is held by the Catholic Church for 2,000 years, but it is unnecessary to comment on them here. If a Protestant, such as Matt Slick is threatened by the literal interpretation in these very clear verses, then he won't be moved by those that follow (see 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:27, 29).
A Protestant cannot agree with the Catholic interpretation on these verses because if he did, he would be compelled to make a change that he does not want to make and desperately needs to avoid and disprove, and so, no matter how literal and plain Jesus's words about eating his body and drinking his blood, there just can not be any agreement; it is forbidden and not allowed.
Connected to this topic are the other hated doctrines of Catholic teaching, such as the priesthood and apostolic succession, both of which, the Protestant believes are also unbiblical and false. Well, the Catholic Church disagrees... and so does 2,000 years of Church history.... but that must be the topic for reflection in a future email.
The question is not: "Are Catholic teachings found in the Bible?" The question is: "Are my personal interpretations of the Bible what was intended by God?"
One final brief comment on the Eucharist. We do not consume a dead man's flesh. No one is pulling Jesus's body apart and fighting over who gets a leg or a breast. No. It is the "living body and blood" of Christ that we receive in the Eucharist.... Christ's "living body and blood". And how does God give us his unbloody "living body and blood" to eat? He gives it to us behind the appearances of bread and wine.
The following short video of Bishop Robert Barron is very informative regarding the Scriptures of John 6 as seen by the Catholic Church.... It is worth watching! Whereas you may have heard some of this before.... Bishop Barron expresses more, in a very interesting way....
Another very good video.... of a former Protestant speaking of the Eucharist.... It's worth consideration or even you critique!
[Back to my Always Toward the Light Post]: Thank you for considering my thoughts and email response on this issue. It's one of the topics that feels easiest to debate, but that doesn't mean that the other person will concede. In my experience, they hardly ever do.... at least not unless they are willing to suspend their pride and question their own interpretations and how they got there.
Please let me know what you think. God bless you!