How do we know what Jesus meant?


#1

I’m a cradle catholic who has begun to seek more knowledge about the “whys” of our religion after a shakeup in my life. I came close to leaving the church, but after prayer and introspection, I’m sticking it out, but I’m hung up on a major thing here:

Can anyone please help explain the following:

When Jesus said, “This is my body”…Catholics believe that he was very literal. So since Jesus said it and I don’t believe Jesus to be a lunatic or liar, it is true. The host I see at mass IS his body. The wine becomes his blood…I got it.

However, Jesus spoke in parables and used symbolism constantly. He also said things like “I am the vine”…but Jesus as we know didn’t mean a literal vine… Using the same logic above, Jesus isn’t a lunatic or liar…that must mean he is a vine.

To me, this begs the question, why are we as Catholics so sure that he was literal in saying “This is my body”, but when it comes to other stuff…it was symbolic?

Seems to me that the Lutherans make more sense in their translation of what Jesus meant at the Last Supper…COsubstantiation…there is a shared substance and symbolism (since Jesus was a frequent user of symbols and parables) rather than complete transubstantiation.

I hope that makes sense, I know I’m totally rambling. Apologies. Thanks for any input you may have and have a Merry Christmas.

Blessings,

David


#2

If you think about it, CON-substantiation doesn’t make any more sense than TRAN-substantiation. You are still left with the problem of a literal presence of Christ in the Sacrament.

There is a lot of good literature on this (try the CA home page) and many more contentious threads on it. Steer clear of those.


#3

Thank you for your answer. Do you struggle with the church teaching on transubstantion or do you just believe it because that’s what were told and taught?

Again, not looking for confrontation, just looking for opinions on how people handle this central belief .


#4

Gotcha. I am a convert. Grew up unchurched-Bible-evangelical-anti-Catholic. Yeah. There really are such things. It amounted to never going to Church but being told that the Bible is the Word of God and whatever our religion might be, it sure AIN’t CATHOLIC!

As a teen, I came under the influence of a Bible-based tradition but wandered towards Anglicanism, where the teaching on the Real Presence was pretty strong. Did I question it? Yup. But no articulation of “the Real Absence” made any spiritual sense. It makes physical sense, but already I was kind of a mystic and understood that there is more to this than mere flesh and mere blood. After all the Resurrection appearances demonstrate that the Resurrection Body (which is the Body we receive in the Eucharist) is a VERY different thing from the kind of physical human body you and I walk around in every day.

So the answer is “yes” and “no”. I “believed” what was taught to me because it was taught in a cogent and well developed way. And it certianly made more sense than Christ’s non-presence would be in light of His own words: This IS my body.

I could never bring myself to the idea that “This is my body” really means “This is NOT my body.”

I think a lot of people stumble over the real presence because they think “real” means physical tissue: bone, muscle, guts and fluids.


#5

“However, Jesus spoke in parables and used symbolism constantly. He also said things like “I am the vine”…but Jesus as we know didn’t mean a literal vine… Using the same logic above, Jesus isn’t a lunatic or liar…that must mean he is a vine.”

I admit that the similarity of “This is my body” to “I am the vine” is at first glance very compelling. If you were to look at the rest of scripture and find that the image of the vine continually crops up at critical time in salvation history you would have to conclude there is more to the saying “I am the vine” than a mere metaphore. But in fact when you look back to the old testament you find the image of bread an wine and the sacreficial lamb and in the new testament the use of the phrase “This is my body” goes well beyound the isolated metaphore. The point is the to comparison between the two is not valid.


#6

When Christ told us that we cannot enter the Kingdom unless we partake of his body and blood followers left in droves. He never said that he was speaking symbolically. He never gave a long explanation of what He meant. I have to take him at His word. Just as the 12 did.

Joh 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
Joh 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Joh 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 you.
Joh 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Joh 6:55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Joh 6:56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
Joh 6:57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
Joh 6:58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever."
Joh 6:59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Joh 6:60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
Joh 6:61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?
Joh 6:62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)
Joh 6:65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
Joh 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Joh 6:67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?"
Joh 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
Joh 6:69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”


#7

Thank you very much for that. I appreciate it.


#8

And I do too. honestly I do, but I just wonder why it is that we take some things Jesus said as metaphorically and some things are literally.

What a struggle. I pray for understanding, I really do.


#9

Our whole way of thinking today is literalistic, post-renaissance, evidence-based and non-metaphysical. For us, faith is a HUGE gift of grace.


#10

Thanks for the answer, but then I guess I can simplify the question by asking this way:

How do we know for sure that Jesus was being literal when He said some things vs. metaphorically speaking about other things?


#11

HUGE is an understatement. It’s very hard to explain our faith to some people by telling them that it requires faith. “You just have to believe and have faith” (or something like that) sounds like such a copout sometimes because we as humans (for the most part) must have solid proof and literal translations to believe rather than faith in it’s existence.

Oh, what a world.


#12

I think the answer is more basic than concentrating on one single area of scripture…

Jesus established a Church… and leaders… and told them that He would be with them until the end of time.
If you really believe that Jesus established this unbroken succession of leaders, then you in turn will trust that the Holy Spirit will guide these leaders. They have (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit) already established what is literal or metaphorical… and declared that certain books were considered “scripture” based on the understanding that certain things were to be taken literally, and others not.

Look to the writings of the early church fathers… Catholic Answers has lots of great info here:
catholic.com/library/scripture_tradition.asp
catholic.com/library/church_papacy.asp

Hope that helps!


#13

I did and does Emily. Thanks and Merry Christmas!


#14

Because some things He meant metaphorically and some things He meant literally.

But you’ll notice that, throughout the gospels, whenever His disciples misunderstood Him, He took the time to explain.
Some of the things (such as the analogy of the vine), nobody misunderstood, so He just let His teaching be plain.

However, when He was misunderstood by His disciples, He explained what He meant. For instance:

Mt 16:6 Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
7 And they discussed it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread."
8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, "O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?
9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
11 How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

But in John 6, His followers are all too aware of the literalness of His commands. They understood that He was asking them to eat His body, and drink His blood.
Joh 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
So, rather than “softening” His message, He reiterates it:
Joh 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 you;

They even said: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
And they left Him because of it. Because they were trying to get Him to say it was only symbolic, and He woud not.

Which left Peter to answer:
Joh 6:67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Please, RUSH an order to get Mark Shea’s This Is My Body. It’s a small book, but a great explaination.


#15

I think the pointer in this particular case is the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6. The Greek is very pointed in its “literalness” here: “gnaw” is the word for “eat.” And Jesus says it so MANY times, and then he asks the disciples, “Will you also leave?”. Peter’s reply is NOT, “Yo, Bro! We get that!” Peter says, “To whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter might not know what the words MEAN but he knows that they are words of eternal life. So my little pea brain says, I may not GET this but I trust the Speaker. And if he says “EAT my flesh,” I’m gonna do it. It’s all about the relationship.


#16

Thank you…I just did.

Which also begs the question, why would Jesus let people leave Him just because He said some things that people didn’t like (or want) to hear that were difficult to understand? Is that the whole free-will thing I guess, right?

Another great explanation…thank you for your time.


#17

Kind of a case of “consider the source”, right? I feel bad for even asking these questions, but I can’t tell you how much of a help this is for me to get these concerns addressed.


#18

Don’t EVER feel bad about asking questions. You are asking with a seeking heart. You are not lobbing grenades. The questions you ask are among the most important questions people EVER ask of the faith.

More people should ask questions instead of assuming that they have all the answers. A sincerely questioning heart is a humble heart. Humility is the seat of wisdom.


#19

I agree 100% with mercygate… asking questions is a GOOD thing!
Many prayers for you on your journey!


#20

Emily and Mercygate…

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.


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