The word “catholic” means universal. One of the cool things about being Catholic is that all over the world the same readings are used during Sunday Mass. So roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have been looking at the John Chapter 6 also termed the “Bread of Life Discourse” throughout August. You can use the link or I included an excerpt as a refresher. Specifically, it starts with the feeding of the 5000 men with five barley loaves and two fish (the 5000 isn’t counting the women and children so it was really many more than that in case 5000 isn’t impressive enough). Towards the end in John 6:55, Jesus gives the difficult teaching “My [Jesus’] flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” So difficult in fact, many of his disciples, after just being astounded and amazed by the miracle of the loaves and fish, “returned to their former way of life” and no longer followed him.
The Real Presence of the Eucharist does take some mind bending. How can something that looks like bread, feels like bread, and tastes like bread actually BE the Body of Christ. Jesus spiritually becomes physically present. Transubstantiation (the conversion of the bread into Christ via the priest acting as Christ) is a miracle, it is shocking precisely because it defies the senses. Although it exists and is consumed under the species or appearance of bread (and wine) it is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. “It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh-is of no avail.” What defines a person is not their human body but their spirit. A body can and will change. Think of a class reunion. Twenty years or 50 years later- same old Class Clown, etc. Now skeptics might be thinking that is convenient you have no tangible evidence. Well, science doesn’t have to be able to prove something for it to be true. There are numerous philosophical truths, say about the existence of love, that can’t be proven through the physical sciences.
Now if you want physical evidence to prove the Real Presence using science, it does exist. There are a host of Eucharistic Miracles (pun intended ; ) documented through the ages. For example the host turns into real flesh, with veins, and the wine turns into coagulated blood that will be a dried stain, then at other times appear fresh. I am reading a whole book of accounts of Eucharistic Miracles. Blind scientific studies on the specimens have been done showing the flesh is striated myocardium of a male with AB+ blood type (heart muscle tissue of a blood type very common among Middle Eastern nationalities). It blew my mind to hear that they did a comparison from two different miracles around the world and they matched! Here is a well done video about the Buenos Aires Eucharistic Miracle in 1996.
I can’t help but draw parallels to another difficult teaching. Life Begins at Conception.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, 2270 “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”
How can something so tiny be a whole person? A single cell, a ball of cells, an organism only days or weeks old, is a human person? Even a Kindergartener learns the difference between living and non-living things: Does it grow? Does it take in nutrition? An embryo is clearly alive and looking at the DNA (or what “it” becomes given time) it is clearly human. Not an “it” at all, even from conception the one-celled living organism was created male or female. Trent Horn, a well-known apologist from Catholic Answers makes the case for Life begins at Conception simply using science and reason not religion.
Our physical world exists within the constructs of space and time, and many people need a child to be given space and time to grow before they concede that it is a person with certain inalienable rights. But those of us that recognize the spiritual realities of the situation see that a human being is endowed with its human dignity when it first comes into “being,”… at conception, not any arbitrary stage of development. And at one’s physical conception this has certainly occurred, but could it even be before that? Before a person was conceived in their mother’s womb they were first conceived in the Mind (or is it the Heart?) of God.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5
When a baby is growing in his mother’s womb it does not eat food or drink. It is given all the nourishment is needs directly from the mother’s flesh and blood (called the placenta). And that flesh and blood sustains life for 9 months, and God’s perfect design of breastfeeding enables the mother’s body to continue to provide for her baby after its birth.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. John 6:56-57b
The growing fetus remains in the mother physically for 9 months and in her heart forever. The mother remains in the child as he shares half her DNA taking on varying degrees of her physical likeness. Additionally, the child grows and grows using the building blocks her body supplies through nourishment. A whole new take on “body building.” And just as the mother has life because of her parents and God, so also the unborn baby has life because of the mother. Thank you, Mom (and Dad ; )
All this body talk reminds me of a Peter Kreeft quote,
“Abortion is the Antichrist’s demonic parody of the Eucharist. That is why it uses the same holy words, ‘This is my body,’ with the blasphemously opposite meaning.” – Dr. Peter Kreeft
To draw the obvious lines, Christ says, “This is my Body, given up for you.” The My Body My Rights mentality: “This is my Body,” to do with what I want in the pursuit of my own happiness, even at the cost of another person’s life.
I believe in Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John that He is truly present in a humble host after consecration. Likewise, I believe that there is truly life present in that humble “clump of cells.” Out of respect for the dignity of even the earliest human being we as Catholics oppose things such as Plan B emergency contraception. This and all hormonal contraception could prevent fertilization, but it also functions, if fertilization has occurred, to prevent implantation, resulting in the death of a living, moving, metabolizing, human being. For those readers in Idaho, this November 2018 you can vote against Prop 2 for Medicaid Expansion which proposes expanding abortifacient coverage via Planned Parenthood. See Right to Life of Idaho’s FB page for more details.
The use of hormonal contraception (potential abortifacient) is widespread even among the Catholic Community. However, Catholic teaching has not changed and was affirmed 50 years ago by soon-to-be-Saint Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae stating that the use of contraception is “intrinsically evil” CCC 2370. Though a startling conclusion in modern culture, the pope really does use a lot of logic in his reasoning with such a ring of wisdom and truth it is hard to deny. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60)
In conclusion, I come back to John 6:63 “It is the Spirit that gives life.” It is in the uniquely human mind and soul that are made in the image and likeness of God. Just as God is a creator and giver of life, we instinctively love and give life. Every woman should have the right to be born. And every life deserves a lifetime.
The Gospel of John, Chapter 6:53-63
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54 Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59 These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life.*60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?*63It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh* is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.c65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”
66 As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.