This Sunday we commemorate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. And for this occasion I thought I’d bring out another solid argument on the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist.
In today’s second reading we find Paul reciting what he was told about Jesus’ words at the Last Supper but what you don’t hear is the explanation on why this is not a mere symbolic remembrance. At the end of today’s reading, the very next verse and following we find Paul stating:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Cor 11:27-30)
The clue that precludes a mere symbolic understanding of the Eucharist is St. Paul’s usage of “guilty of blood,” which is a figure of speech connoting murder (Nm 35:27; Ez 35:6). One incurs the “guilt of blood” only if the victim is present in person. If someone fires a gun at a picture of the President of the United States, that person is not guilty of the President’s blood. But if someone actually shoots the President, then that person is guilty of the President’s blood.
St. Paul says that we are guilty of Jesus’ blood if we partake of the Eucharist unworthily. Therefore, we cannot conclude that St. Paul understood the Eucharist to be a mere symbol. He must mean the Eucharist is Jesus present in person, with his body, blood, soul, and divinity.
And lastly, There are several other ways Jesus could have more clearly indicated that His words of institution (This is my body, this is my blood) was symbolism if He had wished to do so. Aramaic [Jesus’ native language] has around three-dozen words that can mean ‘represents.’ That’s why Paul warns us that we are to discern the body (if we partake in an unworthy manner, then we are guilty of the blood of Christ. Now, how can we ‘discern’ the body if it’s merely a symbol? We can’t! We are to discern the body in the Eucharist because the Eucharist IS the body.
Adapted from a Catholic Answers Newsletter