For the Catholic Church, the month of April is traditionally dedicated to devotion to Jesus in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Catholic Church teaches that the Blessed Sacrament is the real and living presence of Christ—His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—received into our souls with every reception of Holy Communion. Our Eucharistic Lord is the source and summit of our Christian life, the self-gift in and through the Paschal Mystery culminating in the ultimate proof of His infinite love for us. So, there are many reasons for Catholicism – for one to choose and stay Catholic. Yet, for me the most important reason for Catholicism is the Catholic Church’s insistence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Every three years in the Catholic liturgical celebration we call the Mass, there is a special emphasis from John’s Gospel which supports the Catholic Church’s teaching that the Blessed Sacrament – the Eucharist – is the real and living presence of Christ: His body, blood, soul, and divinity received into our souls with every reception of Holy Communion.
During this liturgical season on Sundays Catholics hear 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, during the course of a year the Church celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi (from the Latin for the Body and Blood of Christ). As Catholics we are reminded then, as we are each Sunday, of the transformative sacramental power of the most holy Eucharist, which Vatican II called “the Source and Summit of the Christian Faith.”
To my Catholic friends: I encourage you to stand fast 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 since Jesus’s death and resurrection.
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 these 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 encouraged my young children to articulate why they are Catholic, to be prepared to give the reason for the hope that is within them (1 Pet 3:15).
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
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.