I was having a very nice conversation with a Christian Fundamentalist about religion…until he found out I was Catholic. The conversation went down-hill quickly as soon as he accused me of idolatry.
Idolatry is the worship of something other than God.
One of his many charges was basically that I am guilty of idolatry because I believe the Catholic teaching that the Holy Eucharist ceases to be bread and wine at the moment of consecration, instead becoming the body and blood of Jesus while retaining the appearance of bread and wine. If the Eucharist is not what the Church says it is, then my Fundamentalist buddy is right; I would be guilty of idolatry.
This guy was very polite in his accusations, so I returned the favor and responded this way:
In the Bible (specifically John:6) Jesus is surrounded by his followers who, just the day before, watched him turn a meager amount of food into enough to feed 5,000. At this point in the scripture, the crowd is hoping for another miracle. Instead, Jesus tells them they must “eat his flesh and drink his blood.” The crowd before him is disgusted by this and they leave…except for the Apostles. They remain. Not because they understood what the others could not, but because they had faith.
At the “Last Supper’” Jesus celebrates the Passover for the last time with his Apostles. He holds up bread and wine and says “This is my Body/This is my blood,” and Jesus himself becomes the new sacrificial lamb. Like the Passover of the Old Testament, the lamb had to be eaten for death to “pass over” the household. (Exodus:12, 8,11)
When a Catholic receives the Eucharist, the priest holds it up and says “The Body of Christ.” The receiving Catholic says “Amen,” which means “I believe.” And I do believe this. Not because I perceive any change in the bread and wine, but because I have faith that when Jesus held the bread and wine and proclaimed it be his body and blood, that he meant it.
One could look at it as a test of faith. If faith is indeed a test, then the Eucharist is the pass or fail bonus question. You can’t just receive it and be indifferent. St Paul warns against this in 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29.
Then there is the issue of history. Most modern Christians know that their ancestors were thrown to the lions (actually, they were wild dogs) by the pagan Romans, but many do not know exactly why, other than a general belief that Romans disapproved of Christianity.
One charge made against the Christians by the Romans was the charge of cannibalism, because of the early Church belief that the Eucharist was the actual body and blood of Jesus. Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist explained it this way:
“Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus”
Those words were written in the second century. There is a plethora of quotes from early Christian writers, written both before and after the quote I’ve given here, and while they may differ in the language they use to describe this miracle, they are all unanimous in the belief that the consecrated bread and wine are actually the body and blood of Jesus.
I know that’s hard to believe. Sometimes I have trouble with it myself. Like the disciples in John:6, I left when I thought it was all a bunch of ****. I was an atheist for more than 15 years, but that 15 years gave me a lot of time for reflection. If you accept that Jesus is who he says he is, and then compare the ancient understanding of this belief to your own, I don’t see how you can continue as a fundamentalist Christian.
That was my response to my new internet buddy’s charge of idolatry. He had other complaints about Catholicism, but we have not addressed those yet. I look forward to answering those as well.