As a side note – is has been estimated that only about 80% of Catholics actually still believe in the real presence. This estimate is always in error. 100% of Catholics believe in the real presence. If you claim to be Catholic but do not believe in the real presence you are not really Catholic no matter what you call yourself. If you honestly do not believe in the real presence find yourself an agreeable Protestant church and start practicing what you truly believe. This is a non-negotiable topic for Catholics.
Why do Catholics believe in the real presence in our Eucharist? Quite simply – Jesus told us it is so.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. “I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” – John 6, 47-58.
The disciples did not understand at that time because Jesus had not revealed to them yet how this was going to come to be. That happened at the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist.
“While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26, 26-29.
So why did Jesus have to institute the Eucharist? Let us look at a little understood passage from the resurrection of Jesus on the third day.
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Don’t touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” – John 20, 15-19
This is another example where meaning has been lost when translated from Greek into English. Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch him? He didn’t when read in the original Greek. In Greek verb commands have two flavors. One means simply to do something one time. The other means to do it and to continue doing it until told to stop. When we see the word repent in the bible it is almost always in the later form – repent and keep repenting all your days.
In this passage the command to touch is also in the later form. What Jesus is actually saying to Mary is don’t keep touching me. If you are like me and were there that resurrection morning you would want to hug Jesus and never let him go. That is exactly what Mary was doing. Jesus, not yet risen to the Father, was still in a glorified, earthly body. He could be only in one place at one time. Until Mary let him go he could not appear to his disciples.
Once Jesus ascended to the Father, and rejoined Him in the oneness of time, he was then available to be all places at all times. Jesus was able to descend back into the Eucharist at all places it was consecrated for the rest of Human time. He had fulfilled his promise to be with us, in a very real sense, until the end of the age.
Non-Catholics and even many Catholics do not understand why the Church does not invite everyone to celebrate in our communion. Catholics will share the Word of God with anyone who will listen but only share the Body of God to those in the club. To receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church you have to be a Catholic in a state of grace (no mortal sin on their soul). Why?
Because the Eucharist is a Sacrament and like all Sacraments it deals with something given, not received. When you freely accept the Body and Blood of our Savior you are reaffirming the oath to the death that was taken by you or for you in baptism and then reaffirmed in your confirmation. You are swearing that you will live your life for Jesus and die for him if necessary. To accept the Eucharist and then go out and live an unchristian life you risk serious harm both physically and spiritually.
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” – 1 Corinthians 11, 27-32
This is Saint Paul’s way of saying that if you enter into this oath unworthily you can bring sickness, even to the point of eternal damnation, upon yourself if you do not live up to the oath. For this reason we cannot give the Eucharist to just anyone who wants it. We cannot just give it to everyone and let Jesus work within them. The Eucharist is a very powerful medicine for the healthy but a very powerful poison to the sick. One has to be in a healthy state of grace, healed of their sins through the sacrament of reconciliation, and in the proper state of mind to take part in the Supper of the Lamb.
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith. If it is not what we know it to be our entire faith is in vain.