“Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)
Are you surprised that starting right from the beginning of Sacred Scripture—right there in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 1:3, using just a few words, the Lord has provided one of the most compelling apologetic arguments for defending His Real Presence in the Eucharist?
When I first heard that argument, I was surprised, too. With all the different ways I had tried, unpersuasively, to explain to Bible-believing, Eucharistic-nonbelievers how Jesus could be truly present in the Eucharist, it never occurred to me to refer to the account of creation--something they believed in.
…Never, that is, until I heard a particular sermon. Because I have referred to his explanation, persuasively, so many times since, I wish I could give credit to the priest by name. Unfortunately, I heard his homily during a televised Mass more than a dozen years ago, without knowing his name, then or now.
In essence, here is what the priest-homilist explained.
Although human beings have free will and therefore can disobey, can turn a “deaf ear” to God’s authority—to His commands--the rest of creation, devoid of free will, have no choice but to obey God’s commands.
In Genesis, when God said, “Let there be light,” there could be no other outcome than the one Scripture describes: “…and there was light.” God’s word is sovereign and effective; it does what it says.
If you believe then, that God could speak the world into existence; if you believe that, except for humans, all of creation “has” to do what God says, “has” to obey, then it stands to reason that when Jesus first spoke over bread and wine the words that His Priests, His in Persona Christi, say in His name today, the reality of those words has to come true. Jesus cannot lie. Bread and wine cannot disobey
When Jesus (or His priest in His name) says, “This is My Body” over bread, and “This is My Blood” over wine, there can be only one outcome. The bread and wine have no choice; they have to become what the Lord says they have become: His Body and His Blood.
I repeat. At the Lord’s word, bread and wine have to obey. They have to become Jesus’ Body and Blood.
The same power exercised over creation by God in the first chapter of Genesis is manifested by Jesus in the New Testament. He tells the wind to be calm, and—of course!—it calms down. It has no free will; no choice. It must obey. In the same way at the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus turned water into wine; it is not magic or trickery or pretense. No. His Word; His Will, even when spoken inaudibly, generates reality. Period.
Unfortunately, I admit that none of the Eucharistic non-believers with whom I have shared the priest’s explanation of the Real Presence have signed up for RCIA (yet). Nevertheless, they have admitted that within the context of the creation of the world in accordance with God’s Word, spoken in Genesis, for the first time they could acknowledge the credibility of the Real Presence. For the first time, they admitted, the Eucharistic Real Presence made sense.
How blessed we Catholics are to be able to worship Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and to receive Him in Holy Communion. Jesus promised to remain with us always. Not symbolically. Not in some nostalgic memory. But in His Flesh and Blood. His word is true. Bread and wine must obey. In Holy Communion we are fed and nourished, strengthened to love more—to willingly obey His commands.
So the next time someone questions your belief in the Real Presence, ask if he or she believes that God spoke the world into existence; that inanimate objects have no option, no will, no choice but to manifest the reality God commands. If they concede to God’s authority and power in that regard, help them to see that bread and wine must become Jesus’ Body and Blood based on Jesus’ being God, speaking with the authority that all of creation—save human beings—automatically must obey.
As Catholic human beings, then, we have the great privilege of being nourished by Jesus in Holy Communion. Some day when we die, in the measure with which we have corresponded with His Grace, we will get a reward for exercising our free will to love, to believe, to trust, and to obey Him. Nonetheless, some days, it seems it would be a great privilege, too, to be a sinless a piece of bread or a sinless cup of wine in the hands of a priest. Imagine becoming the Body and Blood of Jesus to feed His sisters and brothers!
…And yet, isn’t that what the reception of Holy Communion is supposed to effect in us, with our willingness in faith, hope, and love? At the end of the Mass, aren’t we sent forth to act as Christ to each other? Not that we become other Christs the same way ordained priests do, but by virtue of our Baptisms, we are to be His Hands, Feet, Eyes, Heart—the Mystical Body of Jesus, His Church….All in all, aren’t we supposed to be a beam of His Light in the world, too?
That question takes us back to Genesis 1:3. “Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.“ And forward to John 8:12: Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world.”
Let us willingly reflect His Light into the world, by worshipping Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, by reverently receiving Him in Holy Communion, and by helping others believe in His Eucharistic Real Presence. May God’s Holy Word and His Holy Church enlighten us willingly to enter into the realities of the mystery of Jesus’ Love shown by His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, the gift of God Himself to those of us who believe in Him.