By Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel
Special to The Texas Catholic
“My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
These words were spoken by Our Blessed Lord in what is known as the discourse on “the bread of life.” We find it recorded for us in the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel. After he had performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, the crowds wanted to carry him off and make him king.
When they approached him, he said to them, “You should not be looking for ordinary bread. You should seek after the bread that endures to everlasting life, so that anyone who eats this bread shall live forever.”
When they asked Jesus for this kind of bread, Jesus shocked them when he replied, “I myself am the living bread that comes down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread shall live forever.” Several times Jesus answered the doubts expressed by the crowds: “I am the living and true bread.” St. John records that the crowds found this to be a hard saying and that many no longer walked with him because of this teaching.
As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. Under the form of bread and wine, the whole Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity are present. At The Last Supper Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist declaring, “This is my body” over the bread and “This is my blood” over the cup of wine.
Our Blessed Lord is completely present under the form of bread that has been consecrated at Mass and completely present under the form of wine that has been consecrated. Not only that, but he remains present after the words of consecration, even after the Mass is over. When we enter a Catholic Church, we are reminded of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist by the red sanctuary light which burns next to the tabernacle. As Catholics, we show reverence to our Lord when we enter the church by bowing or genuflecting for we are in his presence who gives himself as our bread of life.
St. Thomas Aquinas applied reason to help understand this most sacred mystery of the presence of the Lord in the bread and wine in the Eucharist. All things, he explains, have accident and substance. Accident tells us how something feels, tastes, smells and looks. Substance tells us what something is: a table, a ball or a dog. In the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist, the substance changes but the accident remains. What looks, feels, and tastes like bread and wine is truly the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.
The Lord is with us in this sacramental form. We spend time in church with our Lord when we visit the Blessed Sacrament; he nourishes us at Mass with his body and blood. The homebound and sick are united with him when Holy Communion is brought to them and we worship Jesus in the sacrament as God in the rite of Benediction. The promise of our Lord to be with us until the end of time is truly fulfilled in the great gift he left us—his body and blood in the Holy Eucharist.
The Most Rev. J. Douglas Deshotel is an auxiliary bishop, vicar general and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Dallas.