Is the Eucharist Truly the Body and Blood of Christ?

    In his First Letter to the Corinthians (see 11:23-26), St. Paul echoes the words of Jesus over the bread and wine at the first Eucharist (the Last Supper): "This is my body... This is my blood" (Mt 26:26-28). Nothing in these passages suggests that our Lord was speaking only symbolically.

    In fact, Jesus stated repeatedly that whoever would eat his flesh and drink his blood would have eternal life (see Jn 6:51-56). When some of his listeners had objected to this statement and had left him as a result (see Jn 6:52, 60, 66), he didn't call them back, saying, "Wait a minute! You misunderstood! I was only speaking symbolically." Instead, he let them go.

    If they had in fact misunderstood Jesus -- if he had been speaking only figuratively -- would he have let them go, considering that their eternal destiny was at stake? Wouldn't he instead have cleared up the confusion to spare them unnecessary scandal? No Doubt. But Jesus was in fact speaking literally.

    Luke's account of the disciples' encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus also points to this truth. There our Lord took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them -- whereupon they recognized him, and he physically vanished from their midst (see Lk 24:30-31) Later, when they reported to the apostles what they had witnessed, they told "how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread" (Lk 24:35).

    If any doubts remain about the intent of Jesus' words, we need only consult the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who learned his faith from and was consecrated as bishop by men who had been at the first Eucharist: Ignatius wrote: "The Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins and who, in his goodness, the Father raised."

    The change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (called "transubstantiation") is of course a mystery we will never fully understand. But even though we may find it difficult to imagine how this event takes place, we can be sure that the God who created the universe out of nothing has the power to accomplish this miracle as well.

Other related scriptures: Mk 14:22-24 (Last Supper: "this is my body...This is my blood...") ; Lk 22:17-20 (Last Supper: "This is my body... This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."); 1 Cor 10:16 ("The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?")

Catechism of the Catholic Church: 611, 790, 1088, 1323, 1329, 1335-1340, 1373-1377, 1382, 1390-1394, 1406, 1413, 1416, 1846, 2120.

*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005.

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