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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… The Disciples Understood Jesus’ Words On The Eucharist

February 4, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 14

How did the disciples understand Jesus’ words about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood? Did they understand them in a merely figurative way? Or did they understand Him literally, and were scandalized?
A simple reading of St. John chapter 6 shows ad nauseam that they understood Him perfectly well, that is, literally. Because if they had mistaken His meaning, and taken it figuratively, He would have shown them their error. He would have explained it to them, as He explained His teaching about being born again to Nicodemus. But He did not.
Instead, He insisted again and again on the literal meaning, that they had not misunderstood Him. All they had to do was to make an act of faith in Jesus, without understanding. But they were not satisfied with faith, because He had not withdrawn or modified the command to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. The stumbling-block still stood in their path; and so, they left Him and walked with Him no more.
That was the very first time that a group of disciples of Jesus abandoned His company because of a point of doctrine. After them, many others have done the same, from Arius to Luther and Henry VIII. They wanted a “Christian church” according to their individual preferences, not according to the Will of Christ. When they meet their Maker, let them explain to Him their reasons for leaving His Church — good luck!
But Jesus was not content with just letting them go. He wanted an act of faith in the Eucharist. So, turning to the apostles, He said, “Will you also go away?” He was prepared even to lose the twelve, and go back to the lake to call twelve others to follow Him! But He would not flinch, would not water down His meaning: They had to believe that, in some mysterious way, He would give them His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink!
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” There you have your act of pure faith, without understanding! Those noble words, so full of loyalty and love, we adopt as our own, promising to be faithful to Jesus no matter who may be unfaithful to Him.
Of course, Simon Peter did not understand how Jesus would perform such a feat, of giving His Flesh to be eaten and His Blood to be drunk, but he made the pure act of faith.
Here is where non-Catholics deny Jesus Christ: They claim to make the act of faith, to accept Jesus in their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior, but do not believe His words!
One year later, Jesus fulfilled His promise at the Last Supper, at a most solemn moment: He was delivering His last address, His last wishes and commands, to the apostles, because on the morrow He was going to be put to death. He spoke in the very plainest speech to the simple and childlike men who sat at the table with Him. The words were in themselves unmistakable, but they were doubly so in the light of the promise already made that He would give them His Flesh to eat and His Blood to drink.
The apostles believed, as we believe, that when He said, “This is my Body. . . . This is my Blood” — He did not say, “This signifies my Body,” or “this contains my Body,” or “this represents my Body,” or “this symbolizes my Body.” No: This is my Body.
In every language, the verb “to be” always means the nature of the reality we are talking about. That is why God said to Moses on Mount Sinai, “Tell Israel that I Am sent you.” God uses the verb to be to indicate the reality that He is in Himself. After Jesus’ words, the bread and the wine were changed into His Body and Blood.
Since the Last Supper until Martin Luther every Christian always understood it literally. But those who disbelieve His teaching on the Eucharist are wont to quote one verse, and one verse only, out of the whole of the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel. It is this: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and truth” (verse 64). Thus, they claim, He was speaking figuratively.
The interesting thing about this approach of quoting one verse to refute the whole chapter is that it is so thoroughly illogical: The text of a verse must be interpreted in the light of the context given by the chapter, not the other way around. It is illogical for anyone to suppose that Jesus would have spoken of His own Flesh when He said: “The flesh profits nothing.” He did not say: “My Flesh profits nothing”; He said: “The flesh profits nothing.” There is a world of difference here.
And he had just reiterated that it was by eating His Flesh that we would have life everlasting:
“I am the living bread which came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give is my Flesh. . . . Amen, amen, I say to you: unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has everlasting life. . . . Because my Flesh is food indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed.
“He that eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood, abides in me, and I in him. . . . He that eats me, the same also shall live because of me.”
And then to say the very opposite, that “the flesh profits nothing” referring to His own Flesh, would have been a gross contradiction in His teaching! But He wasn’t. He was talking about the flesh in the biblical sense of “people” who have become depraved, sinful, and decadent. A few examples will suffice to demonstrate it:
Gen. 6:12 — And when God had seen that the earth was corrupted (for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth).
Matt. 16:17 — And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in Heaven.
Matt. 13:20 — And unless the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh should be saved: but, for the sake of the elect which He hath chosen, He hath shortened the days.
Luke 3:6 — And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
John 17:2 — As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He may give eternal life to all whom thou hast given Him.
Acts 2:17 — And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (says the Lord), I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
1 Cor. 1:29 — That no flesh should glory in His sight.
Eph. 6:12 — For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.
Yes, the flesh profits nothing. The carnal “wisdom” of decadent man — flesh — is useless to save him. “My words are spirit and life,” He said. Now, both “spirit” and “life” are true realities, not figures of speech. God Himself is “spirit” and “life” and He is more real than the whole universe put together.
Next article: How did the apostles and their successors understand the Eucharist?

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. He is a militant pro-life writer and apologist, addressing live audiences and delivering talks on television, radio, and online. To date he has given over 2,500 presentations in 38 countries of the six continents. He is available to speak at Catholic events, both large and small, anywhere in the Free World, in four languages — English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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