If a heart stops pumping blood then the body will die. If the body is drained of all its blood then the body dies. If the body of Christ, the Church, loses the Eucharist then it dies. The moment an individual turns away from the Eucharist as the Real Presence and sees it only as a symbol is when that soul dies. Denying the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist is like denying a body needs blood to live.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, a research study was conducted in August 2019 which revealed the majority of Catholics deny the Real Presence in the Eucharist. The article quoted Bishop Robert Barron as saying “It’s hard to describe how angry I feel after reading what the latest pew research study reveals about understanding of the Eucharist among Catholics. This should be a wake-up call to all of us in the Church.”
For many, perhaps, they have been deceived into believing it is only a symbol. However, that is not what the apostles and those who walked with Jesus believed it to be. In fact, they taught explicitly against it being just a symbol. “The blessing-cup, which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ; and the loaf of bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf.” (I Corinthians 10:16-17)
The apostles would know certainly what Jesus was speaking about and they would know the importance of the Eucharist. In fact, they had seen disciples of Jesus walk away because of the teaching of the Real Presence. Beginning in John 6, we see Jesus link the Last Supper bread with real food.
“So they said, ‘what sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers ate manna in the desert, as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus answered them: In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread: for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. ‘Sir’ they said, ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered them: I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger: no one who believes in me will ever thirst.” (John 6:30-35) Jesus was not speaking metaphorically about the bread in the wilderness because that actually happened and those speaking with Jesus on that day knew that real manna, real food, rained down from heaven in the wilderness. Therefore, Jesus is speaking of himself being real food. How do we know this? Those who heard his teaching did not receive it and many left. In John 6:6 we see that if Jesus was speaking metaphorically then it obviously would not have been a big deal. It was a big deal. “After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more.” (John 6:6)
The early Church fathers believed in the Real Presence. Saints such as Ignatius, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Ambrose have all taught consistently on the Real Presence and many defended it from heresies. We are living in a time where there is a rampant heresy of unbelief. Society has pulled and tugged at the hearts of many and convinced them it is not the Real Presence and therefore it is not a “big deal”. It’s heresy to deny the Real Presence of Christ and, depending on the severity of the denial, can be schism. Heresy is a sin that should be addressed immediately in the confessional. It is the denial and unbelief of not only an established belief in the Catholic Church, but is the denial and unbelief of the “source and summit” of the faith (CCC 1324) and receiving it in an unworthy manner carries grave consequences.
The feast of Corpus Christi, originating with Bishop Robert de Torote in 1246, is also called the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is a time set aside in the liturgical calendar to honor the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Let’s truly honor the body and blood of Christ by returning to belief in the Real Presence. For those who believe in the Real Presence, let us continue to teach others and pray for those who do not believe. For those who have abandoned belief in the Eucharist, may you return to the Lord who gave his life for you and continues to give you the life flowing from his body and his blood.