I’ve been talking with a non-Catholic friend about the Eucharist, and one of the things he asked me was what would happen if a rat ate the host. Does it actually eat Jesus? I answered that objectively yes, it does. It’s not a sacrament for the rat, since it doesn’t have a soul, but yes it really does consume the body of Christ.
Well he got really turned off by that. I tried to explain that the Church takes great pains to make sure this doesn’t happen, but he still thinks it’s ridiculous that we would believe that a rat can receive God into its body.
Was I right to say what I did? Does a rat receive the actual body of Christ?
The rat does receive Christ but it does him, the rat, no good and no evil since the rat is an innocent creature without sin. It’s one of the reasons we put unconsumed consecrated hosts into tabernacles, to keep such things from accidently happening. If your friend were to remember that God is already in everything, including the lowly rat, he might be less offended. Of course, the sacramental presence of Christ is special, but a rat can hardly know that nor be held responsible for sacrilege since he has no concept of such things.
It sounds like your friend is influenced by an idea called “receptionism,” which is the (mistaken) idea that the “real presence” of Jesus is contingent on the person receiving the Host - that we must believe we are receiving the Body of Christ to actually receive it. This idea is especially prevalent in the Anglican Church.
Anyone who is confused by receptionism could not think a rat could consume the Body of Christ in the Host.
However, when Catholics talk about the “real presence,” we mean it’s really real. It doesn’t matter what we (or the rat) believe. The Host doesn’t cease being the Body of Christ because a rat grabs it.
Thanks Della and David. That’s what I thought but I just wanted to make sure I was on the right track.
One thing I forgot to mention in my OP is before we started talking about rats eating the Eucharist, my friend was trying to see why receiving the Eucharist even mattered. According to him, he already has Jesus in his heart, so why would he need to physically receive? I tried to say that God wants to be completely united to us, body AND soul, and that’s why he gave us the Eucharist. That’s when he responded with the rat question.
I think what he’s actually trying to say is that physical communion is not that important since even a rat can have it. What do you think I should say to that idea?
He’s half right. It is more important to receive the Holy Spirit spiritually (by Baptism) than physically (by Eucharist).
But just because Eucharist is LESS important than Baptism doesn’t mean that Eucharist is UNimportant.
Obviously a rat cannot receive the Grace of Eucharist. A rat can snatch a diamond - the diamond remains a diamond, and remains valuable - but not to the rat. A rat may possess a diamond, but the rat cannot profit from it.
^^^I would add that it matters because Christ said it does (and why He said it does). See John Ch. 6, vs. 31 et. seq., in conjunction with the passages about the Last Supper–including those by St. Paul, in his letters (i.e.–not just the passages in the Gospels).
The Church calls the Eucharist the Source and Summit of the Christian life.
1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “**The other sacraments, **and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”
I call this symbol over substance. It is the difference between a symbol of a real thing and the real deal itself. If I have the hood ornament as a symbol of a big new Chrysler, can I get in it and drive off? Christ says “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.” Now if the Eucharist is a symbol, then the abiding in Christ and He in us becomes symbolic, something other than the real thing. When we abide in somebody we befriend him in the sense that his will is our will, a friendship. We’ve all experienced ‘friendships’ that were symbolic in nature - they never end good. One party uses the friendship to take advantage of the other.
Since He said ‘this IS my body’ and since we consume the real Christ, albeit in the appearance of bread, we receive ‘real life’, not the symbol of real life. And what is it your friend receives, not the real Christ? What I’ve never come to grips with is ‘what is the ‘symbol’ of real life’? How does a symbol give real life? Let us know what he might say. After all Christ said " Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you". You think maybe Christ is taking advantage of us? If I make tofu as a symbol for a real steak (shape it, grill it, season it like the real thing), am I eating beef or not? So where’s the beef?
Does your friend have the real Jesus in his heart or a symbol selected as a better substitute for Christ?
You were absolutely and objectively right, also I would add that someone would be guilty of desecration of the Body of Christ. A grave offence, in fact is the utmost case of sacrilegious offence. The person responsible for this incurs excommunication.
A bit off topic, but a rat like all animals have souls. It is made good and is perfect in its ratness. The difference between humans and animals is that humans have rational souls, the animal’s soul is instinctive.
I think I lost him though. I tried my best, but he just thinks it is all ridiculous. There’s not much more I can say. He has his own explanations for what Jesus really meant, and he thinks the Church Father’s can’t be trusted. I kind of feel like I’m talking to a wall honestly. Even Eucharistic miracles don’t mean anything to him.
Ahhh, indeed I know what you mean, pray for him, remember we are in sales, conversion belongs to the Holy Spirit and THAT is management
If the passages from John 6 are not a clue that Jesus is NOT mincing words about this:
6:48 I am the bread of life. 6:49 Your fathers ate manna in the desert, and they died. 6:50 This is the bread which descends from heaven, so that if anyone will eat from it, he may not die. 6:51 I am the living bread, who descended from heaven. 6:52 If anyone eats from this bread, he shall live in eternity. And the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” 6:53 Therefore, the Jews debated among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 6:54 And so, 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 will not have life in you. 6:55 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 6:56 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 6:57 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 6:58 Just as the living Father has sent me and I live because of the Father, so also whoever eats me, the same shall live because of me. 6:59 This is the bread that descends from heaven. It is not like the manna that your fathers ate, for they died. Whoever eats this bread shall live forever.” 6:60 He said these things when he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 6:61 Therefore, many of his disciples, upon hearing this, said: “This saying is difficult,” and, “Who is able to listen to it?” 6:62 But Jesus, knowing within himself that his disciples were murmuring about this, said to them: “Does this offend you? 6:63 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending to where he was before? 6:64 It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh does not offer anything of benefit. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 6:65 But there are some among you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who were unbelieving and which one would betray him. 6:66 And so he said, “For this reason, I said to you that no one is able to come to me, unless it has been given to him by my Father.” 6:67 After this, many of his disciples went back, and they no longer walked with him. 6:68 Therefore, Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 6:69 Then Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. 6:70 And we have believed, and we recognize that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
How many times HE repeats this?
Count them. HE repeats the proposition 7 times. If you know any thing about numerology in the Hebrew frame of mind 7 is a very important number.
GOD uses it extensively in the Old Testament.
Also notice. After many of His followers leave HIM, Jesus does not change tune!
Nope he turns to ask the 12 Apostles: SOOO guys, what’s up, are you not leaving Me too?
If this was meant as a parable, that Jesus so often used to teach something, you normally see the people NOT understanding the meaning of the parable, but Jesus would explain the meaning of it to the 12. After the multitude had left and HE was alone with his 12 disciples.
But again many will not believe Jesus, as long as we gave witness and tried our best, hoping that we sowed the seed and it may yet germinate and bear fruit.
In the Eucharist we recieve the Lord physically and spiritually. Please read Augustine’s tractates On John 6. Especially towards the end where he says we do not merely receive the body and blood of Our Lord but also a participation in His Spirit.
Jesus incarnated into our world in a completely helpless, and humble manner. He was a baby who needed absolute care and had no defenses nor ability to care for Himself. He entrusted Himself to us humans. That is exactly how He makes Himself present to us now. He gives us Himself, completely and utterly helpless, and entrusts us with caring for Him. We have the duty to do as Mary and Joseph, and care for and protect Him.
In that understanding, He experienced being fully human. I imagine He even experienced things like mosquito bites, maybe a dog bite, and other harmful interactions with animals. I’m certain He stumbled over a rock and got hurt, and other injuries. So if a rat were to eat a consecrated Host, even though it was protected as well as could be by those entrusted to care for the Eucharist, it would be no different than the examples I just gave.
I have no doubt that Jesus had dust mites living off his skin, just like the rest of us have dust mites living off our skin. And I’m sure that Jesus’ dust mites were extremely happy dust mites, and that Jesus knew and loved them.
But since they were animals, they didn’t receive the spiritual benefits that a human receives from Communion.
Not because they weren’t really eating Jesus’ flesh (okay, his flakes of skin), because they clearly were eating His skin!
Because as animals without human souls and Baptism, they don’t have the full capacity to receive Jesus’ life within them. They just ate perfect skin of the One Who was true God and true Man.
(Also, because a piece of Jesus’ skin was just a piece of His skin, and didn’t contain His entire Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Communion does contain all those things.)
If you poured more water into a cup than the cup was able to hold, that wouldn’t mean that the cup didn’t actually receive the water. It wouldn’t mean that the water became less real. It would mean that the cup couldn’t hold all the water that it got.
Likewise, a rat could receive Jesus, but it can never hold all those graces of Communion with Him, because it’s a rat, and not a Catholic human.
And again, a cup can receive water, but it can’t drink water. Only living creatures can drink.
We receive Eucharist physically. It imparts spiritual Grace (provided we are in a State of Grace).
Rats can receive the same Eucharist physically, but it does not impart Grace (and we receive no Grace if we are not already in a State of Grace). Physical reception is no assurance of receiving Grace. The Sacrament is real either way, but the reception of Grace is contingent on us.
There is something called “spiritual communion” which is, basically, a prayer (usually made when we don’t have access to physical Eucharist). I don’t think the Church teaches that “spiritual communion” is any substitute (ie, is equivalent) for physically receiving Eucharist (but it is surely better than nothing).
This is a great point. There really is no difference between God making himself vulnerable to us in the Eucharist and God making himself vulnerable in the Incarnation.
I guess there actually is one difference, since Jesus’ glorified body in the Eucharist can no longer suffer any injury or harm. So in fact, a rat eating the Eucharist would be LESS of a scandal than what Jesus already went through on earth. It doesn’t even cause Him harm at all.