See and Believe
The Eucharist. We talk about transubstantiation. We talk about matter, form, substance and species. When you come right down to it, though, you just have to say that it is a miracle. How else does bread and wine become the very body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ except that it is a miracle? We cannot perceive it with our senses. At the consecration there is no thunderclap, no voice from heaven, no heavenly rays of light. Now and then there have been some astounding, miraculous manifestations of Eucharistic phenomenon where it takes on the appearance of flesh and blood, or there is emanating light etc. At any given Mass on any given day, however, appearance is not what we can rely on. In what, then, do we place our confidence that bread and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ? In the fact that Jesus said so. Jesus said it, we take him at his word and we believe it. For what else is the basis of Christianity except that we believe what he has told us?
The Bread of Life discourse in John chapter 6 is preceded by the multiplication of loaves, the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water. The discourse, occurring the next day, begins with a conversation in which Jesus says “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” Those around Jesus say “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answers them “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent” They reply to him “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?” They then say to him “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’
What sign, what miracle can you give us that we can see and believe in you? God gave our ancestors manna in the desert, bread from heaven to eat. What can you do that is like that? Jesus then tells them what miracle he will give us…“I am the living bread that came down from heaven…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. In the Bread of Life discourse Jesus tells us what the miracle will be. At the last supper when he takes bread and wine saying this is my Body, this is my Blood he shows us when and how this miracle occurs. Jesus, who has power over nature, has power over the nature of bread and wine. Jesus, who could multiply the loaves can multiply himself to feed us in the sacrifice of the altar and the sacrament of Communion. Jesus who gave us this sign of his presence as the one who was sent by the Father.
Essential to Christianity, that we may see and believe that Jesus is the one who is sent; essential to the perpetual sacrifice in which we participate and that is offered in the Mass; essential to the one flesh relationship between Christ and his Bride the Church; essential to sustaining us in the sacrament at Communion is this miracle. That bread and wine truly do become the Body and Blood of Christ. What can we do to accomplish the works of God? We can see this and believe in the one who was sent.
I have two grandsons who will be receiving their First Communion in the spring. I have been sitting next to one or the other during Mass to help them maintain some focus, making sure they learn and participate in the prayers and actions, and understand what we are doing. A couple of weeks ago my grandson was kneeling next to me during the Eucharistic prayer. At the consecration he is looking down at the floor paying no attention to what was happening on the alter. When the priest lifted the host I leaned over and whispered in his ear “Right up there. That is no longer bread, it is the Body of Christ. That’s a miracle.” Again, when the priest raise the cup I whispered “That is no longer a cup of wine, it is the Blood of Christ. That’s a miracle.” My grandson paid attention for the rest of the Eucharistic prayer and ever since then we have talked about the miracle that happens at Mass. My grandson is a little boy and I know there are going to be many times I will have to remind him to pay attention in Mass. Hopefully, though, when he sees the Eucharist, he will remember that it is a miracle and believe that Jesus is there.
The Eucharist. It’s a miracle. The sign that we may see and believe in the one who is sent. Jesus has given it to the Church so that, they too, may be recognized as the one who is sent. Jesus as the one who is sent by the Father and the Church as the one who is sent by Jesus.