The Eucharist, Part IV
In the first three sessions of the catechesis on the Eucharist, I explained the ways in which the Old Testament prepares us to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In the Gospels, we see how Jesus prepares us for the great Passover Meal that will become the Last Supper, the Mass, the gift of himself in the Eucharist. Then after the Resurrection, Jesus reveals himself in the breaking of the bread to those walking to Emmaus. And, finally, in scriptures, Paul speaks on the Eucharist when the community gathers to break bread. The breaking of the bread is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I then shared Fr. Merz’ summary of the latest CARA report on belief in the real presence and the high correlation between attending Sunday Mass regularly and belief in the true presence. Today, I want to share with you some of St. Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on “how” we can reasonably believe that the bread and wine that comes down the aisle at the preparation of gifts can become Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity while we are kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer. It is a philosophical discussion that speaks to our faith, so all I can say is that if it is reasonable, it is believable. Before I begin with St. Thomas, if Jesus can take a few small barley loaves and a couple of fish and feed five thousand people and still have enough left over to fill 12 wicker baskets, why can’t he become the bread and wine we consume so that we can consume him? Aren’t all the healing stories to show he is capable of doing what he chooses to do for us and that all laws of physics and science bow to him rather than him bow to them; after all he is the God who created these laws.
St. Thomas begins by defining a term “accidents.” Accidents are describing- words. If I have a little stress ball in my hand, I use words to describe the ball such as: round, squishy, soft, red, 5 inch diameter, light weight, etc. These are all the accidents of the substance, the stress ball. “Substance” is the item I am describing; in this case, “the stress ball.” Substance is “what is this?” Accidents are “how would you describe it?” When people from the congregation bring the bread and wine at the offertory, the substance is bread and wine. We can describe the bread and wine by naming the accidents. The bread is flat, round, the size of a quarter (sometimes a dime,) white, etc. The wine is red, tastes like wine, liquid, etc. When we kneel down for the Eucharistic prayer, we have what is called “transubstantiation.” Trans- meaning “change” and substantiation meaning “the substance.” So, “Changing of the substance.” The accidents remain; what it IS is now WHO HE IS! The substance of bread and wine has changed into the substance of Jesus Christ, himself.
Every time we celebrate the mass and bread and wine changes into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, we are privy to a miracle. A miracle has occurred right before us! A Eucharistic Miracle is when even the accidents are changed. In these moments, the host may start to bleed and the priest and bishop work delicately to protect the sacredness of the host while allowing scientists to study what they are looking at. Here, instead of going into what the scientists (sometimes atheist scientists) have discovered, I will simply invite you to study Eucharistic Miracles which are easy to find on the internet.
The miracle that always happens is the change of substance, transubstantiation. The accidents remain. So, this is why people who have gluten allergies do not take a regular host and one who suffers from alcoholism should refrain from the cup; in the host and in the cup, the accidents remain. And, the good news is, Jesus Christ is really truly present and with us!
As you read the bulletin, please note the Lenten small groups being formed to reflect on “Jesus and the Eucharist” from the National Eucharistic Revival Commission from the USCCB. Also, note the information about St. Vincent de Paul hosting the National Pilgrimage of the Blessed Sacrament as part of the Jubilee of the Eucharist culminating with a Eucharistic Revival in Indianapolis this summer. Stay tuned, much more on the Eucharist as we continue our Jubilee of the Eucharist. Let us pray well and bring others to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.