As a convert to the Catholic Faith I really struggled with the belief that the Eucharist really is the Body and Blood of Jesus. I could not understand how speaking certain words over the bread and wine that were on the altar could make any difference to them. They looked the same as before and they tasted the same so what had changed? I desperately wanted to believe that I was receiving Jesus in the Eucharist so I prayed that God would show me the truth. Soon afterwards He led me to a seminar at a large gathering of Catholics at Walsingham. The seminar was called “The Real Presence” and when I heard the title I just knew that I had to go and listen to it. It was given by the late Bishop Ambrose Griffiths, who very gently took us through the Scriptures and what Jesus Himself had told us about the Eucharist.
He said that Jesus gave us the Mass. At the Last Supper, when He blessed the bread and gave it to His disciples He said, “This is my Body given up for you.” When He had blessed the wine and passed it round to His disciples He said, “This is my blood, poured out for you.” He did not say that it was a sign of His Body and Blood but that it actually was them. In the same way that Jesus gave His Body and Blood to His disciples He offers himself to us in the Eucharist. Every Mass presents the death and resurrection of Jesus and somehow these events, become present and real to us who join in the celebration.
REAL FOOD AND DRINK
Jesus also said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) He went on to say, “I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) By receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in Holy Communion we receive the life of Christ within us. There was also another promise, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:54-55). Jesus leaves us little doubt that he is truly present in Holy Communion. Through the Eucharist we are united with Christ Jesus and become more like him. At the end of the seminar Bishop Ambrose suggested that we reread the verses from John Chapter 6.
The next day as I waited in the long queue for Communion I recited to myself, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life within you.” And “my flesh is real food, my blood is real drink.” I remember very clearly as I got to the front of the line, there was one person in front of me receiving Holy Communion when I heard a man’s voice very clearly in my head (but not through my ears) saying, “How much closer can you get to me than to take me into your own body?” At that moment I was in front of the priest and received the Host and I knew, deep down in the depths of my heart, without a shadow of a doubt that I had received the Body of Jesus. The same thing happened with the Chalice. I knew for certain that it was the Blood of Jesus that I had received.
MY PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED
I returned to my seat on a real high and knelt in thanksgiving to Jesus for revealing Himself to me. His words kept going round my head until suddenly I realised what a strange thing He had said. Why did He say, “How much closer can you get to me than to take me into your own body?” He could just have said, “This really is my Body and Blood.” I wondered about this and then suddenly I had a flashback to three days earlier, on the first night, when the Conference Leader asked us to think about why we were there. I decided that it was because I had enjoyed it the previous year so much that I wanted to come back again. Then he said, “Now you know why God had brought you here you should pray for what you want to get out of the coming week’s conference.” I felt a bit of a fraud because I had misunderstood his first question and didn’t want to pray to have a good time so I racked my brain to think of what I wanted to get out of the coming week. I couldn’t really think of anything specific so I quickly shot off the prayer, “I want to get closer to you, Lord.” Then I instantly forgot the prayer. But God didn’t! Three days later He answered my prayer by pointing out that I couldn’t get any closer to Him than by receiving Holy Communion, His Body and Blood, into my own body.
I learnt two very valuable lessons that week: Jesus is truly present in Holy Communion and He always answers our prayers, even if we have forgotten them!
Written by CATHERINE