Not long ago was the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The bread as the Body of Christ. Inciting the priest to teach just what we ingested when we take that consecrated host into ourselves. We were on the central coast at that time and heard two, maybe three homilies on the real presence. And then another when we got back home.
Apparently, there are substantial numbers of Catholics who think the Eucharist is symbol rather than the actual Body of Christ. The numbers vary considerably- reportedly, somewhere between forty to seventy percent of baptized Catholics believe that the Eucharist is symbolic only. Having been thinking about this for the last few weeks, I wonder why we are surprised. After all, many of the disciples left Christ once he announced exactly who He was and followed up with a declaration, actually a command, that caused many of his followers to leave him. This is too hard, they thought as they walked away.
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh.
"At this, the Jews began to argue among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?
"So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink.
"Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your fathers, who ate the manna and died, the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Jesus said these things while He was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing this, many of His disciples said, “This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?” And they left.
Upon turning to the small group of followers still there, Christ turned to them to ask if they wanted to leave as well. Peter's answer is touching, even plaintive. He does not understand anymore than those who left: Simon Peter replies, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life."
Peter speaks in the mysterious language of faith.
Through the ages, we have been given signs. Even in our times. In 1996, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the then Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, led an investigation of a host turned bloody flesh. A forensic analysis of the substance revealed it to be blood type A/B, the universal donor. And “a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves.” Because white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, he stated that “the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”
But would such compelling evidence persuade an unbeliever? Rigorous science conducted according to the laws of neutral, impartial systematic study?
I think not. Rather, we are told by Christ Himself in the parable about the anonymous rich man and the beggar Lazarus:
"Once there was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and live in great luxury every day. A beggar named Lazarus, who was covered with sores, was brought to his gate. He was always trying to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs used to come and lick his sores.
“One day, the beggar died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.In the afterlife, where he was in constant torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus by his side. So he shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool off my tongue, because I am suffering in this fire.’
“But Abraham said, ‘My child, remember that during your lifetime you received blessings, while Lazarus received hardships. But now he is being comforted here, while you suffer. Besides all this, a wide chasm has been fixed between us, so that those who want to cross from this side to you cannot do so, nor can they cross from your side to us.’
“The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house— because I have five brothers—to warn them, so that they won’t end up in this place of torture, too.’
“Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They should listen to them!’
“But the rich man replied, ‘No, father Abraham! But if someone from the dead went to them, they would repent.’
“Then Abraham told him, ‘If your brothers do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, even if someone were to rise from the dead.’”