Holy Communion question


#1

Hello everyone,
I’m a Protestant who desires to better understand why Catholics stress the importance of the bread and wine actually becoming the body and blood of Christ during Holy Communion. I realize it is a core belief of Catholicism and I respect it as such. However, as a famous politician on an unrelated subject once said, “What difference does it make?”

In my church, we celebrate Holy Communion about once a month and on special occasions like Christmas Eve and Easter, but not every Sunday. It is viewed as an ordinance that the faithful do to remember Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross for our sins and is an expression of our faith and obedience to Christ, who said “Do this is remembrance of Me”. Anyone who professes that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior of any Christian denomination is welcome to partake in our church if they so desire, but it is not forced on anyone.

Maybe I’m weird, but I view it as more important for the presence of Christ to reside in my heart and spirit on an ongoing basis and strive to live for Him daily than to argue over whether the bread and wine actually turn into the actual body and blood of Christ during Holy Communion or not. Please explain why this concept is so critical to Catholics.


#2

Hello!

I’m no expert on the Eucharist. But I do know a thing or two about truth and right worship.

You can say that you love me. But what do you know about me? Can you love me if you don’t know anything about me? Only in an abstract, impersonal way, that is to say, “I love all people,” but you have no real personal love for me because you do not know me. (It is easier to love what we have seen, or what we know, than it is to love that which we have not seen. “if you cannot love your brother or sister who you have seen, how can you love God who you have not seen?”)

Then, I could be a legend made up for you. Everything you know about me is false. What, then, do you love? Your concept of me is not grounded in reality. Is your love for me truly for me? Or is it not, rather, for the false concept that you have of me? Does your love mean anything to me, I, knowing that you love a false concept of me and not my true self?

If you truly love me, you will search me out! You will wish to know who I am. And the more you know about me, the more you can love me. This reaches its highest potential in a husband and wife, who know one another and come into physical union with one another. Ideally, their love is nigh-perfected.

It is very important to worship the true God, and to know what He has made for us to know (like, for example, his presence in the Eucharist). It is also important to share in His literal, incarnate presence. What sort of father are you if you simply tell your son “I will keep you in my mind while you go to your baseball tournament!” Legitimate restrictions aside, get up and go there instead-- physically be a part of your child’s life if you love them. God so loved us that He is constantly among us.

To ignore Christ when he seeks to come down to us is so deeply sad that I can’t truly fathom it.

Do not forget that right worship is important to God. Why were Adam and Eve banished from Eden? Why was Cain’s sacrifice not good and Abel’s was? Why were Nadab and Abihu incinerated? Why was Uzzah struck dead? These all heard God’s Word and did not worship the truth, but instead worshiped their own idea of what was good. Most of them were probably good people… David was grieved for Uzzah, and Aaron for his sons. But it stands as a lasting testament to the importance of knowing God as Truth, not “whatever I think should be is good enough for God.”

I hope that in reflecting on this, you will see that in loving God as Truth and seeking to know Him as best we can, seeking to embrace Him as He comes to us in love on the altar, this is the answer to “what difference does it make?”

catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/is-the-eucharist-truly-jesus-body-and-blood
Read here for some information about the Eucharist.


#3

Read John 6:25 to 6:70. It is a mystery, but Jesus himself said it and many people abandoned Jesus for saying it.


#4

Hello SighGuy,
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. In retrospect, I regret the choice of words, “What difference does it make” because I realize how strongly Catholics feel about the sacrament of the Eucharist. No disrespect intended to anyone and I apologize if that is how it was interpreted. I was just trying to be clever with a Hillary Clinton quote.

I realize very much that Christ wants to have an intimate relationship with us. In fact, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior several years ago and strive to live for Him daily in my thoughts and deeds. I still believe it is more important to have an ongoing personal relationship with Christ and believe that the bread and juice are a symbolic representation of His body and blood than to believe that the bread and wine turn into the real body and blood of Christ during church service on Sunday only to live the rest of the week like God doesn’t exist or play a significant role in my life.


#5

because Jesus gave us this most important SACRAMENT on the Night of the LAST SUPPER - the last meal he shared with his apostles before his death. Read his words carefully…and he says DO THIS IN MEMORY of ME - not do this once a year, or a few times a year. Read the Acts of the Apostles and Saint Paul where it says they met for the Breaking of the Bread.

Also, read the post Resurrection Luke gospel reading of the two men on the road to Emmaus…they recognized Jesus in the BREAKING OF THE BREAD. <— Important!

Its pretty straight forward once you understand the scripture.

Its also a Mystery.


#6

The beliefs, Tommy, aren’t mutually exclusive! What good is receiving the body and blood of Christ if Christ doesn’t dwell in our hearts? In that case, we only “eat and drink judgment upon ourselves”!

It’s a caricature to suppose that a true Catholic sees fulfilling external movement as chief over interior disposition. “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things,” says the Lord. We know that it is not business and external observance that qualifies us as the adopted sons and daughters of the Most High.

That’s the best thing: not only is loving God on a personal level of chief importance to Catholics, but the keeping of the Sacraments actually enhances it.

Truth without love is rigid and cold. Love without truth is illusion. Love and Truth nurture one another.


#7

If Holy Communion makes no difference, then what difference does anything make? What difference does it make if you are baptized - you can love God without having water poured on you. What difference does it make if you pray - God already knows everything you want to say, and you can love God without repeating it all to him. Or no, what difference does it make if Jesus was even resurrected? it doesn’t change what He did or said. What difference does it make if you love your neighbor, they are not God? What difference does it make?

The point I’m trying to make here is that everything we have is important because it was given to us by God himself. There are many, many reasons why the Eucharist is the MOST Blessed Sacrament, but I will answer your question very, very simply: The flesh and blood of Jesus is important because Jesus gave it to us. He did not give us bread and wine; He gave us His flesh and blood. It is important.


#8

All the difference in the world. It’s not His dead flesh and blood that we consume - rather, we enter into a physical communion with the living Christ.

If it’s only a symbol, then you wouldn’t expect anything to happen. One is remembering someone who came to us a long time ago, and now lives in a very far away place. Ho hum. Big deal.

But if it really is the living Jesus, Himself, then that’s exciting! :extrahappy:


#9

Note John 6:53: So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.

That sounds pretty important.

It also makes a difference in how we treat the Eucharist. If it’s just a piece of bread, it really doesn’t matter what we do with it. We can throw out to the birds and bottle up the wine after communion, we can trample it on the ground, we can sweep up whatever crumbs we might drop and throw them in the garbage. If it’s truly Christ, we need to treat the elements with reverence.

There is also a difference in having loved ones with us through physical means rather than just being spiritually all around us. My Dad died on Good Friday last year; my Mom died in 2006. I can guarantee you that it’s a whole lot different to have them in just my heart than to actually have them physically present. Now, this is an example of when we love humans. Think about what it is to have Jesus actually present, in a way you can touch. It is very different, and another way that He is with us.

But, from a perspective of salvation, which I am assuming is what you mean, John 6:53 gives an indication of why it’s important.


#10

It’s not “either/or” and if Catholics really understood that Jesus is alive in the Eucharist, and entering into a profoundly intimate moment with them when they receive Holy Communion, it wouldn’t even occur to them to commit sin during the rest of the week - they would gladly die for love of Him. There is nothing more personal about one’s relationship with Jesus than receiving Holy Communion as a Catholic in the Catholic Church.

It’s unfortunate that too many Catholics fail to realize the gift they have, and act like Jesus doesn’t matter to them, but the reality is that Jesus wants so badly to be with us that He actually wants us to eat Him. It’s hard to fathom, but that is the reality of His love for us, and it is the reason He died on the Cross for our sins - so that He could enter into total physical and spiritual communion with us, not only when we die and go to Heaven, but here on earth, too. :slight_smile:


#11

One more thought: you don’t think it’s important because you believe it is symbolic. But if you believed Jesus actually meant what He said, if you took it to be the body and blood of our Lord…that is in itself why it is important to believe it. For all the same reasons it is important to believe His other teachings…because anything He taught is important to believe.


#12

I sort of reject the premise of your question. You are asking why it is important that we “argue” a belief and a practice as if we are wrong and you are right. Your question, if you are truly seeking to understand, should be “how do you know you are receiving the Body and Blood of The Lord?” which is actually what the other posters have already answered.

With all due respect, it doesn’t really matter if you believe it is a symbol (by the way, in your worship service it IS just a symbol). We have a Church that can be traced to the Apostles who says the Eucharist is Jesus. So…that’s why we feel really strongly about it.


#13

jmcrae said:
“If it’s only a symbol, then you wouldn’t expect anything to happen. One is remembering someone who came to us a long time ago, and now lives in a very far away place. Ho hum. Big deal”.

Christ lives in my heart on an ongoing basis. He is very near to me. I read and meditate on His Word daily and the Lord is the most important part fo my life. To me, God is not far away at all. To assume otherwise just because I believe that the bread and wine don’t actually turn into the body and blood of Christ during Holy Communion is an incorrect caricature of who I am on your part, if I am interpreting what you said correctly.

I aplogize if I hit a nerve by bringing up this subject. I will drop it. I didn’t mean to anger anyone. I just happened to turn on a Catholic radio station a few weeks ago while changing channels and have been intrigued in my spirit to find out more about Catholicism ever since. May God bless all of you. :slight_smile:


#14

I don’t think you have caused any anger. You seem sincere in asking. Christ should live in all of our hearts, you are right about that. None of us assume that you aren’t actively seeking God just because you don’t share our beliefs. My best friend, one of the most prayerful people I know, does not share our beliefs.

But as I said earlier, you should believe it because Jesus said it was so. Which is why another poster said the question you should be asking is “Is it true? Why do you believe it?” Otherwise it would be rather the same as us asking, “Why is it important to believe it is only a symbol?” You said you read His Word daily, which tells us Scripture is very important to you. In His Word, we believe Jesus meant what He said when He said "This is my body. This is my blood."You think it is important to read and follow Scripture, and this is what is in Scripture.


#15

Thank you, jmcrae. I really liked and can relate to your last post. It is starting to make more sense to me now.


#16

There are no hard feelings. Hopefully you have the answer you were seeking. We believe it is essential to proper worship of God, and not only that, but that it is salutary to our own well-being and salvation, because it bolsters that relationship with God. This is our belief.

God bless you also. :slight_smile:


#17

From the Catechism of the Catholic Faith (CCC):

1323 "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood.** This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’**"133

We celebrate the Eucharist weekly, or more often, because we believe that this is what Christ asked of us. We should do as He did “until he comes again”. By celebrating it we not only feel the sense of closeness you describe, but we believe that we take into us the fullness of Christ Himself. This brings with it saving grace, the grace which helps us to stay true to our faith and to move forward in holiness and understanding. For us it is about the REAL PRESENCE.

1331 Holy Communion, because** by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ,** who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.149

By receiving the REAL PRESENCE, we are united with Him in the intimate bond of the Body of Christ which brings us into communion with the full Church.

1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"158 The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”:159 The Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has "the words of eternal life"160 and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

The apostles themselves were skeptical of this teaching, but Christ reassured them.
NABRE John 6:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

Thus we believe that it is his TRUE PRESENCE in the Eucharist.

1341 The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words “until he comes” does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.165

1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as: - thanksgiving and praise to the Father;

  • the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
  • the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.
    We celebrate the Eucharist not merely as a memorial, which is the Protestant view, but as a sacrament of the REAL PRESENCE of God.

“What is the difference?” It is the difference between having a precious photo of your loved one in your hands and having your beloved in your own arms!

You can read about the Eucharist within our liturgy here. Just keep clucking “next” until you get to the end of the section.
vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3W.HTM

The sacraments are described here:
vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2Z.HTM


#18

Thanks to all for your thoughtful and thought-provoking replies. More food for thought. Even though I am not Catholic, I appreciate you and consider you to be brothers and sisters in Christ even though we may not share all the same beliefs and I feel God is using you to wipe away years of misconceptions about Catholicism on my part.


#19

Tommy, what kind of Protestant are you? It does make a difference because there are many denominations who have different ideas about the Holy Eucharist. For example not all Protestants believe that the eucharist is only an ordinance. Most Protestants believe that the Holy Communion is a sacrament. This includes Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Lutherans and Reformed. That is every Protestant denomination except Baptists.

And not all Protestants believe that the Eucharist is only a 'symbolic representation". Lutherans and Anglicans believe it is the true body and blood of Christ.

So what denomination or “non-denomination” do you belong to? It does make a difference, a big difference.


#20

I am a member of an Assembly of God church. We have a great pastor who always has strong biblical sermons that frequently deal with with personal application of scripture to our daily lives about allowing God to break down strongholds that keep Christians from living godly lives and keeping us from becoming all we can be in Christ. The only part I feel I am missing is that sometimes I feel the need to confess my sins to someone in spiritual authority in addition to God himself. Only Catholics seem to have a process and sacrament built-in for that – that I am aware of. Sure, I could go to my pastor, but he would think I was weird if I did that each week. In my church, only people with serious problems tend to go to the pastor for counseling.


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