I am against “re-publishing” Blog entries, but I made an exception below. This blog was first published about a year ago.
OME HAVE CALLED called Bishop Sheen’s book, Life of Christ (1958), his great masterpiece, and I would say it is definitely one of his finest. The Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, contains the discourse on the Holy Eucharist. I’m not going to repeat everything Fulton Sheen said about it Life of Christ, but I strongly urge everyone to read the good bishop’s words.
The Holy Eucharist is central to the Christian faith. It’s introduction in John 6 is also accompanied by interactions with two other very important and significant things: (1) The Papacy and St. Peter (John 6: 67-69); (2) The strong possibility that Christ’s teaching on the Eucharist was what caused Judas to fall away (John 6: 71). Just for the record, Judas was not the last person to reject Christ on account of his teaching about the Holy Eucharist.
When Christ said:
I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. (John 6: 51-52)
. . . a great many of his disciples no longer followed our Lord anymore. They left Him.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6: 53)
Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? (John 6: 61)
After this, many of His disciples went back to their old ways; and walked no more in His company. (John 6: 67)
Remember that the Jews had been forbidden to drink blood (Leviticus 17: 10, 12). They imagined that our Lord was referring to cannibalism, and, disgusted by this notion, they followed Him no more.
They failed to realize that our Lord was not referring to cannibalism. Fr. Rumble (Radio Replies, Volume 3, no. 869) explained the Catholic understanding:
Christ is not present in the Eucharist under a form in which cannibalism could be possible. His body is really and substantially present, but not in a natural way. It is an entirely supernatural mode of presence which you may not believe, but which at least excludes all notions of cannibalism.
You can read more (URL) of what Fr. Rumble has to say. Basically, in the Blessed Sacrament, Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity, but under a form that makes cannibalism impossible.
There’s no question that this is mysterious and miraculous. That’s OK: so many things in our universe are. We live in a society that is obsessed with “creature comforts” (video games, materialistic pursuits, fine dining, etc.). We no longer appreciate the miraculous. We no longer wonder what it must have been like when the world and universe were created, because we’re too busy playing video games. We no longer care to think about what a miracle the human body is, or the way that the human race continues, age after age, in a miraculous way no human could ever invent. Now that I’m a parent, I appreciate the miracle that our daughter is (her little hands, organs, mouth, eyes, etc.). We have another child on the way: another miracle! Miracles abound in the natural universe: the sun rising in the sky, the moon at night, the bugs, microscopic organisms, animals, plants, etc. The way that the earth’s water literally “recycles” itself, year after year, century after century. It evaporates, becomes clouds, rains down upon the earth, travels through the rivers, waters plants, then evaporates again. We never think about these miracles because, quite frankly, we’re too busy playing video games, or otherwise seeking worldly pleasures.
Christ expected those who had seen Him work miracles to have a faith in His words, but they left Him.
Christ still expects us to have faith in His words. It seems to me that St. Thérèse of Lisieux, in one of her letters, explained why Christ did that. I cannot remember her exact words, but she basically said, “Christ asks us to have faith in Him, no matter what, because He desires our poor souls so very much. If we experience trials and tribulations when it comes to faith in God, let us remember this.” I think St. John mary Vianney said pretty much the same thing.
In other words, what have we to offer up? We have running water, modern medicine, computers, television, radio, phones, modern medicine, cars, heaters, air condition, modern medicine, modern plumbing, clean food, clear water, (did I mention modern medicine?), and so many other things that no civilization ever had. People used to die at age 35. Infant mortality was tremendous. Doctors and their various treatments were AWFUL and BRUTAL. Penicillin and anesthesia had not been discovered. What have we to offer up?
Christ, therefore, asks us to give Him a very easy thing: our faith in Him! Let us never fail to do so.
One more thing: I remember serving Mass for an old Irish priest. In the sacristy before Mass, he said, “You know, it’s a good thing Christ does hide Himself from us in the Holy Eucharist, under the forms of bread and wine. We could not bear to look upon His Infinite Purity and Holiness.” I thought this was a powerful insight.