As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christ, also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, many of us are filled with joy and peace knowing that Jesus still lives and moves among us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Many of us have experienced healing, miracles, and grace through our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and can attest to the reality of the true presence of Christ. After all, it’s difficult to be healed by a piece of bread, so something else must be at work. Sadly, however, Pew Research surveys indicate that the vast majority of Catholics do not believe in the true presence anymore. To be clear, those who have identified themselves as Catholics do so in varying degrees, from some attending Mass only twice per year to those who attend Mass daily, with the more regular Mass attendees reporting more belief in Jesus’ presence. Those of us who do believe, recognize that once you know the truth, it becomes nearly impossible to leave the Catholic Church or to attend Mass infrequently because we recognize that this is the only place on earth where we can be in the physical presence of Jesus (which is not something to take lightly these days). Objections Eucharist

There are many more minor reasons for the declining belief, but most generally fall under the umbrella of a failure to properly catechize Catholics on the sacrament’s truths. While there is some emphasis within the Church on addressing these catechetical gaps, we can help at the grassroots level by evangelizing and catechizing the people we encounter in our personal lives. To that end, we will look at some of the more common objections to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the Catholic response to those objections.

Jesus was only speaking symbolically or figuratively.

We’ll get the biggest objection out of the way first. You may have heard something like this: Jesus called himself a “vine” and a “door,” but we don’t think he’s a literal vine or door. There are indeed times when Jesus speaks figuratively in Scripture and times when he speaks literally. Still, there are ways we can tell he was speaking literally when he taught the necessity of consuming his flesh and blood for salvation.

As you read the gospels, how often do the disciples leave him when he speaks symbolically? No one left when he referred to himself as a vine or door. The only time “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” was in John 6 during the Bread of Life discourse. (Click to read a more in depth analysis on the Bread of Life discourse.) Furthermore, when addressing their grumblings and asking if they found his words offensive, he doubled down and changed the word he used. John’s gospel illustrates this by using the Greek word phago, meaning “eat,” earlier in the discourse, then changing the word later to trogos, meaning “gnaw” or “chew.” Then, after using this stronger vocabulary, their response was, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it” (Jn 6:60). It seems clear that they understood him to be speaking literally, and it would have been uncharacteristic of Jesus to allow a group of people to walk away from him over a misunderstanding if his entire mission is bound up in people knowing the truth through him, especially if it was something as easy to correct as symbolism.

Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice “once for all” (Heb 7:27), and the Mass should only be a memorial. If you believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then Jesus is being sacrificed over and over at each Mass, which is contrary to Scripture.

For an in-depth analysis on this topic, read my article The Eucharist and Anamnesis, but there is still room for a short response here. Humans are bound by time, so Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary is an event that happened in the past according to the limitations of our perspective. God is eternal and, therefore, outside of time. Every event — past, present, and future — is in the eternal now for God. A good Scripture verse to help illustrate this point is Jeremiah 1:5, when God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” If God experienced time like we do, this statement would be false, but since we know he is not a liar, the problem is with our limitations, not God’s. So, the sacrifice we celebrate at each Mass is a mystical re-presentation of the one sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary, not a repeat of something that happened at a moment in history.

If Catholics believe the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ, then they are committing cannibalism.

This objection dates back to the earliest days of the Church when pagan Romans included the charge of cannibalism as a reason for persecuting Christians, which provides evidence that the belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was present from the beginning with the Apostles. The disciples who walked away in John 6 likely did so because they, too, equated Jesus’ words with cannibalism. Cannibalism is eating flesh from a corpse. After flesh dies, it corrupts and deteriorates, and any nourishment it provides, such as protein, only serves as physical nourishment. Jesus’ flesh is living flesh and is now glorified in heaven at the Father’s right hand. When he transforms the substances of bread and wine into his body and blood, it is a mystical and miraculous event given to us by a living God. In consuming it, we receive spiritual and supernatural nourishment. Cannibalism profanes a dead physical body, but partaking in the Eucharist acknowledges and participates in Christ’s living and glorified body.

There is no perceptible change after consecration. It still looks and tastes like bread and wine.

We use the metaphysical doctrine of transubstantiation to speak to this objection, but first, we must define the terms of substance and accidents. Substance makes a thing what it is, and accidents can be perceived through the senses. When the bread and wine are consecrated, and transubstantiation takes place, the substance of the matter changes from bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ, while the accidents remain the same under the appearance of bread and wine. Consider this reverse example. You are born as a baby and grow through the stages of life. Your body changes through development, injury, illness, or renewed health. The perceptible accidents in your flesh change, but your substance — what makes you, you — does not change. Even when your body dies and returns to the earth, your substance remains in the afterlife. God does not need to change the accidents of bread and wine to change the substance into himself. He’s God and fully capable of performing such miracles. Again, like with the concept of time, the problem is with our human limitations, not God’s ability to do what he says he will do.

If this is a topic that interests you, there are many books and resources available to help you grow in confidence when answering objections, including Deacon Dennis Lamberts’ book, For Real? Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist. It may also be helpful to look at what the early Church fathers had to say about the Eucharist because disbelief in the true presence only began relatively recently in Church history. If you are one of the people who experiences doubt or struggles to accept the truth, don’t give up! Remember the father in the gospel of Mark who brought his son to Jesus for healing. Jesus said to the father, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” And the father responded, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24). We all experience doubts, but Jesus helps us to overcome them when we ask for his help, trusting he will reveal the truth to us.

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