The Spirit--No Greater Gift by Kilian McDonnell, OSB

P Prayer and Scripture enlightened my mind on various truths of the Catholic Faith. The first lesson, on the Holy Eucharist, began unexpectedly. One day it occurred to me: "Can't God be present in the form of bread and wine? Is that too hard for Him?" (Could I be recalling my words as a child: "How's that possible?") "Yes, He can be present in the form of bread and wine," I thought. "He can do anything He wants to." The only way to explain what happened next is to say a ‘curtain” opened before my eyes. One moment I saw only the dark curtain; then it opened, and I "saw" the reality of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I saw it. I knew it was true.

Peter Marshall once said that grasping ". . . spiritual reality is a matter of perception, not proof." And it is by the gift of faith that we have the vision to see spiritual reality. I could never again fail to see what I had just witnessed, and no words can describe the effect of this reality upon me. I longed to be with Jesus in the Eucharist.

But the Lord was not content to give me only "faith without understanding" however great that faith might be. Much later I discovered an apt Latin phrase used by theologians, fides querens intellectum, "faith seeking understanding." Unlike my childhood experiences with catechesis, this time I knew I would need to locate the reasons, the evidence in support of my faith. In the New Testament, I soon came across numerous passages about the Eucharist that solidly planted in my heart and mind the truth of Christ's Real Presence in the eucharistic Host.

One night as I flipped through the Bible with nothing particular in mind, I noticed that the verses I chanced upon had something in common. They were all about Jesus feeding His disciples: the miraculous multiplication of the loaves; the "Bread of life" teaching; the Last Supper accounts, including Matthew 26; even the "breaking of the bread" at Emmaus. Although these passages were not unfamiliar to me, I saw them with fresh eyes--looking at what they actually said, instead of what I had always been told they said.

It struck me how important this topic of feeding us must be for the Lord to have given so much time and attention to it. It was vital to Him. The multiplication of loaves was more than a miraculous solution to a food shortage. Jesus was preparing the people to see how he would miraculously feed them with the Bread of life.

In John 6, He explains that He is that "living Bread" and that those who eat His Flesh and drink His Blood will actually have in them His life--not, I noticed, a symbol of His life. As if to emphasize the reality of what He would give them, Jesus said, "My Flesh is food indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed. He would impart to them "spirit and life," but, as was the Redemption, it would be given through His Body.

I realized that we each face the choice presented to the disciples. We can rely on our reason alone, dismissing the idea as preposterous: "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?"

Or, like St. Peter, we can take the Lord at His Word and let Him show us just how we are to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. He does that at the Last Supper. Jesus speaks over the bread and wine and says, "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood . . . ." The One who created the universe by His Word takes a piece of bread and says, "This is my Body." He does not say, as I had heard my {Protestant} pastor "quote" Scripture, "This represents my Body."

We Bible-believing Christians had been rewriting the Bible to suit our theology instead of simply believing what it says--what Jesus says. Topping off this Bible lesson was a verse from the Amplified Bible (not a Catholic Bible): "For anyone who eats and drinks without discriminating and recognizing with due appreciation that [it is Christ's] Body, eats and drinks a sentence--a verdict of judgment--upon himself." So it is Christ's Body, and New Testament Christians knew that.

Those who followed after them also believed it. Justin Martyr, writing around the year 150, called Communion "the Eucharist" and said this "food blessed by the prayer of the word . . . through its transformation . . . is the Flesh and Blood of Jesus made flesh." Ignatius of Antioch, who received the Faith from the original Apostles, wrote, “The Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” . . .

Overwhelmed with this scriptural and historical evidence, I spoke with my [Protestant] pastor about it. "This was the faith of the Christian people from the beginning right up to the Reformation. Even Martin Luther believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in Communion. How did we {Protestants} ever lose it?”

“Well, I might have to give you that,” he answered, as if we were playing some sort of meaningless game.

I had a dream that made this teaching clear and simple: I was speaking to some people who didn't believe in the Real Presence, and I asked them, "If you know Jesus could do it, and He said He would do it, why don't you believe He did do it?" Why indeed?

Condensed from Surprised by the Truth 2 . 2000 Patrick Madrid. Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, NH, which is available at  our on-line book store.

  Read other articles of Spiritual Enlightenment in the May 2001 edition of The Charismatics or return to the main menu by clicking here