There are many reasons to be a Catholic. I’m certain there are just as many reasons people choose not to be Catholic. Yet, for me, the most important reason for one to choose Catholicism is the Eucharist.
Today, in the Catholic liturgical celebration we call the Mass, the third reading was from John’s Gospel. For the past few Sundays, in fact, as happens every three years, we’ve heard specifically from John’s sixth chapter. It is here that we encounter John’s Eucharistic Discourse (aka The Bread of Life Discourse). John’s telling of Jesus as the Bread of Life is a different depiction than in the Lord’s Supper accounts found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels, and Paul’s letters. For comparison I encourage you to read all of John’s sixth chapter and some of the other readings shared below. You can easily read John 6 all the way through in one sitting.
Similarly, earlier this year the Church celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ). As Catholics we were reminded then, as we are today on this Sunday, of the transformative sacramental power of the most holy Eucharist, which Saint Pope John Paul II called, “the Source and Summit of the Christian Faith.”
To my Catholic friends: I encourage you to standfast in your faith wherever you are in your spiritual journey, and I challenge you this year to go deeper in your understanding of the Eucharist, which is the “Mystery of Faith” and God’s greatest gift to humanity.
For my Catholic and non-Catholic friends I submit to you this: To know Who is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist is to know God’s gift to you, and to each one of us, as we call to mind the familiar liturgical refrain, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are we who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
Blessed are we indeed, for the Eucharist (from the Greek meaning “thanksgiving”) is not mere symbol; rather, it is food for the soul. And the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church spoken about in the Christian proclamation of faith – the Nicene Creed – has proclaimed and defended this truth for over 2,000 years.
Thanks be to God!
Such a mystery of faith cannot be explained by sight, of course. Yet we are strengthened by Christ’s exhortation to Saint Thomas (and to all of us), “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29). And, so, with confidence of over two millennia of Apostolic Tradition guided by the Holy Spirit let us approach the altar, that we may taste and see what goodness the Lord has prepared for us (Ps 34:9); that we may confidently exclaim with Saint Thomas, “My Lord and My God!” (Jn 20:28).
Let our hearts, therefore, be open to such a reality! As the late Cardinal Francis George fondly encouraged, “If our hearts are open, the Lord can change and transform us so that one day we may speak with love about the One who is love.”
This Sunday at Mass, as during every Mass that’s offered for us every hour of every day, and in every nation around the globe, let us nourish our soul with the Bread come down from Heaven, and remain in Him who was sent for our salvation (Jn 6:47-51, 57). And with an open heart, fed and nourished by this most holy Bread of the Angels, we can be changed and transformed, so that one day we may also live the words of Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
So, truly, there are many reasons to be Catholic. I’ve even challenged my four young children to, one day soon, be able to articulate why they are Catholic.
As for me, when asked, “Why are you Catholic?” The answer is simple, really: I’m Catholic because I will never turn my back on Jesus in the Eucharist.
For further reading about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, see:
1 Cor 10:16
1 Cor 11:23-30
1 Cor 5:7
1 Cor 2:14-3:4 – explains what “the flesh” means in *Jn 6:63
Ex 12:8, 46
Is 9:18-20; 49:26
2 Sm 23:15-17
Rv 17:6, 16