Real Presence: Jesus Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely presence in the Eucharist. (Cf CCC 1374)
Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
I have some old news to share with you: two-third of U.S. Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This data is according to the Pew Research Center, released on August 5, 2019. If you, as a member of the VEYM, pause and ask what Real Presence is, then you need to read on. The belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is so fundamental and unique to our faith that without it, we cannot call ourselves Catholics anymore, just like we cannot call ourselves a basketball fan if we’ve never heard of Steph Curry or the Los Angeles Lakers. So, I would like to take this opportunity to review with you the Catholic doctrine on Real Presence.
Imagine that you must go on a long trip far from home. On the second week of your trip you start to miss your loved ones. You pull out your phone and make a video call with them, you tell them how much you miss them and how you wish they were there with you. At the end of the call you didn’t forget to tell them, “See you soon!”
For our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters, the belief in the Eucharist is like making a video call or looking at a picture of Jesus. The bread is a symbol of Jesus, but it is not really him. Paintings, mosaics, stain glass, or other depictions of Jesus also belong to this category. We Catholics believe in a different thing. We believe that the consecrated bread is really Jesus. When we look at the consecrated bread, we really look at a person. In the Eucharist, we can say to him, “I see you.” This “you” is a real person we see who is physically present in front of us. This is a higher form of presence, just like a physical person is a higher form of presence than a picture of the person.
Isn’t it hard to believe that a piece of bread is a person? Normally I would totally agree that it is even nonsense to call bread a person and treat it as such. The Real Presence, however, is not a normal phenomenon because it is motivated by love, and love makes people do crazy things. Jesus loves us so much that he leaves us his body and blood to stay with us in this world. By his own loving power, he changed bread into his flesh and grape wine into his blood. He said, “This is my body. This is my blood.” With these very same words the priest, acting in the person of Jesus, turns bread and grape wine into Jesus’ flesh and blood in Mass. Thus, Catholics believe that when we see the consecrated host and wine, we see the real Jesus. When we receive communion, we receive the person Jesus. Jesus said, “This is,” not “this represents” or “this symbolizes.” So, we believe the bread is him, and the wine is him, not symbolizing him. With this belief, we are called to show our deepest love and respect toward this Most Holy Sacrament. However we would act in front of God, the same is expected of us when we are in front of the Eucharist.
This is our faith, the holy faith that has been preserved and handed on for over two thousand years. Let us embrace it in the spirit of freedom and of love, and in turn hand it on to our brothers and sisters who have not yet believed in it.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, a heart so pure and pleasing to God, pray for us.
Bao Tran, CSsR