Friday, December 15, 2023

The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ

A good frame to approach the subject of the Eucharist is the Latin motto “Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi” meaning the way of worship (Prayer/Liturgy) reflects the way of belief (Faith/Theology), and also reflects the way of life (Christ centered).

Lex Orandi: Law of Worship

When devout Catholics gather at Mass or Divine Liturgy to pray and worship God, the summit of their worship is the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

One cannot doubt their belief in the true presence of Christ after seeing how careful they approach to receive the Eucharist. They are true to God and themselves in their conviction that they are receiving Jesus’ true Body and Blood. Their act of worship points to those who are present at Mass the sacred significance to partake in Holy Communion.

Therefore, one observes some bowing down slowly before the host and putting their hands in the form of a crown to receive, others opening their mouth to receive on the tongue, or with a spoon, and some others kneeling to receive on the tongue. They always respond with a resounding “Amen” to the words “The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”. One cannot miss their true reverence in worship which reflects their faith. 

In contrast, there are Catholics today who publicly doubt, deny, or are indifferent to the Church's teaching on the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Their lack of conviction in the true presence is noticeable from their irreverent way they approach, receive and walk away from the Eucharist at Mass.

But can we blame them? Where could they have learned true faith, reverence, and worship? Is that reverence and belief clearly visible in our bishops, priests, deacons, teachers and theologians? Have we not hidden our tabernacles and removed them from the center of our churches away from the altar and everyone's view? Have we not replaced our bleeding crucifixes with plants, flowers and pleasant imagery?

Lex Credendi: Law of Belief

For those Catholics who question the validity of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, influenced by mislead priests and teachers, they cannot be further from the truth. There is nothing that comes close to challenging this Church’s teaching even if we only defend it based on Holy Scriptures, let alone Church Fathers, Church Tradition, and Eucharistic miracles.

These Catholics follow in their error the faith of other Christians who misunderstand the words of Jesus “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 & 1 Corinthians 11:24) to mean Jesus is asking his followers to remember him at the breaking of the bread. They sadly gather to break bread remembering that “this is not his body” and “this not his blood” which is exactly the opposite of what Jesus told them to do and remember. They are far from his genuine invitation to remember his true presence with them body and blood till the end of time.

The simple and straightforward words of Jesus “This is my body” and “This is my blood” are clearly stated in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The purest translation of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, is simply “This my body” and “This my blood.” What Jesus the author of life says simply and truly happens. How else could one interprets Jesus' words?

Mathew 26:26-28: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

 Mark 14:22-24: And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

 Luke 22:19-20: And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

St. John’s gospel affirms Jesus’ teachings in the other three gospels by recounting Jesus repetitive sayings to his disciples on the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:51-57) to a point that many of them find his saying hard to take and took offense at it (John 6:60-61). In fact many no longer followed him although he did not chase them back to reinterpret what they clearly heard, rather he challenged those who remained with him (John 6:66-67).

John 6:51-57: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

 John 6:60-61: Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?”

 John 6:66-67: After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Will you also go away?”

Jesus’ teachings on his presence with us in the Eucharist continued in the teachings of the Apostles starting with St. Paul the Apostle:

1 Corinthians 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?

 1 Corinthians 11:23-29: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.



Lex Vivendi: Law of Life

When challenged about the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, most Catholics resort to backing the faith with Biblical verses, Church teachings and Tradition (Lex credendi), others resort to teaching by example in how they receive, adore and worship (Lex orandi). But if we truly believe in Christ's presence in the Eucharist we and others must begin to see true transformation in us. A transformation into the body and blood of Christ. We and others must start to see Christ in us in how we live and interact with others (Lex Vivendi).

Our prayers are our “way” of worship, our knowledge and faith in God are our “truth” in worship, both are important and necessary because they are centered on Christ who is the Way and the Truth, but Christ is also the Life: "
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Our way of worship and believe must be fruitful in our way of life or we are worshiping and believing in vain. 

Christ tells us “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” John 6:56. What Christ says always comes true. If we are truly eating his body and drinking his blood we would also be abiding in him and him in us.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

One Day Saint

 Martin Luther was convinced that humans will always continue to live in a cycle of sinning and regretting their sins all the days of their lives. He became not convinced of the Church teachings of forgiveness and reconciliation through the Sacrament of Confession. He declared his sainthood, or salvation, by distancing himself from the culpability of his thoughts and actions, and rather covering himself with the blanket of the grace of Christ. He accepted his fate as a sinner but considered it irrelevant to his salvation since he lives covered by the grace of God.

The Apostolic Church and her Saints have never interpreted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his gift of salvation through a grace independent of the human response of carrying one's cross daily working toward salvation with fear and trembling. (See Philippians 2:12) 

I thought to myself that I want to be Holy for God but how can I be Holy? Luther offers an easy way out but it is not in accordance with Biblical nor Apostolic teachings, nor does it give enough credit to Christ’s ability to transform me to his likeness in this lifetime. It only promises a true transformation or sanctification in a life to come after death. It misinterprets or ignores Christ's commandment in Matthew 5:48  “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” also repeated by St. Peter the Apostle  in 1 Peter 1:15 “But as he who called you is Holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct”. We are called to perfection and holiness in our conduct as our Father in Heaven is perfect and Holy. 

I also thought of the words of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” These are not empty commandments, they are expecting a true transformation. 

Hence following these Apostolic and Biblical teachings it is not enough for me to be declared Holy standing in the shadow of Christ without being truly Holy in my whole being. I must seek instead a complete inside-outside transforming grace unifying me to Christ, making me more like him, making me one with him, transforming me from within. I must also have faith that, with God’s grace, such a transformation is achievable in this lifetime, for Christ assures us in Matthew 19:26 “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.

Still the task is overwhelming to me despite the abundance of grace. The Saints whom I love, and whom I try to follow their examples have endured resiliently many difficult obstacles that I cannot imagine myself doing. The devil adds to my anxiety by whispering to me “ You are not strong enough. You may resist sin today but you will eventually fall. You are a sinner and you will always be. Accept your fate. You are nothing like them. Here, see your past life, it  speaks for itself...”    

As weak as I am, it is true that being Holy, or being a Saint is overwhelming and overachieving to me, I don’t have enough faith nor do I love God enough yet to accomplish this task or state of being. However, reflecting on the Lord’s prayer, I saw that Jesus taught us to pray for our “daily bread” and focus on our needs for the day. Therefore I concluded that with the grace of God all I have to do is be Holy or a saint for today, a one day task, much more doable to my weak self. 

I will ask for the grace to be Holy today and not be anxious about tomorrow at all, nor be concerned with the past. I will ask God for “our daily grace” to conquer sin today, be pleasing to Him today, and follow his commandments today. Besides the Lord’s prayer I am also reminded of Christ’s words in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”  

When the Devil of pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth shows up on the doorstep of my soul, he will see that I, today, belong totally to Christ. He will then remind me of my past and threaten me that he will come back tomorrow. But he is of no concern to me, since my God is “I Am who I Am” (Exodus 3:14) not “I was who I was” nor “I will be who I will be”. I live today in God’s hand and “no one is able to snatch them [me] out of the Father’s hand". (John 10:29).