Last night at RCIA we were learning about the Eucharist. (Yay!) But how do you put words into such a miracle?
To Catholics, it seems obvious to take Jesus literally when He said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”(John 6:51) To Protestants, it seems obvious to take it metaphorically. I used to take it metaphorically; I mean, who would believe something as utterly outrageous as Christ telling us to eat his body and drink his blood? Even Bible literalists who believe the universe was created in six 24-hour periods don’t think Jesus actually meant that.
I only know that through my experiences I’ve come to believe in the Eucharist, and it’s altered/amplified/strengthened everything else about my faith.
Jesus’ listeners at the time asked what he really meant by this eating flesh business, but Jesus just reiterated, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54) Many walked away over this discourse, which indicates to me that they found it to be literal (and appalling).
Last night we talked about the Passover and how biblical Jews celebrated memorial holidays. The Passover memorial was not just a day to sit back and reflect on what happened; those participating in the memorial now were stepping outside of time and in communion with those that fled Egypt. And that’s what happens during Mass: we are participating in the Last Supper. God exists outside of time. For Him, all moments happen at once and continue happening for eternity. Time is malleable. In the Mass, we get a glimpse of that by transcending our own time and place and existing somewhere higher.
Another note about the Passover: the Jews were protected from the tenth plague by sacrificing a lamb and smearing its blood on their doorways. Therefore, the Passover lamb is the central dish to the Passover meal. But Christ uses the bread and wine, not the lamb. This is because He has become the Passover lamb, for Jews and Gentiles alike, and his shedding of blood will reverberate throughout the rest of time. (Animal sacrifices no longer required.)
God loves us and yearns to bring us close to Him. He augments the physical world and time so that we might imbibe Him. It’s radical. It’s utterly outrageous. It’s appalling. It’s completely true. And it’s wonderful.