As Catholics, we believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist — body, blood, soul and divinity. And we call it the source and summit of our Catholic faith — that everything we do, how we live, what motivates us flows from the Holy Eucharist.
St. John’s Gospel gives us a beautiful portrait of Christ’s teaching on the real presence. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus uses what’s known as absolute statements, or, “I am,” statements. “I am the good shepherd.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the vine, you are the branches.” And then he comes to the point where he says, “I am the bread of life.”
It comes after one of the greatest miracles in all of the Scriptures: the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Jesus takes that and he begins to teach them about how he himself is the true bread from heaven. And so he makes another absolute statement. He says, “I am the bread of life. And if you want to have life, true life, then you have to eat my flesh and drink my blood.” And all of those people balked at that; he can’t possibly mean what he’s saying. They just couldn’t take that next step of faith. And so in one of the saddest moments in all of the Scriptures, those people begin to walk away.
And I believe that one of the greatest teachings that Jesus gives to us on the Holy Eucharist, is what he doesn’t say in that moment. He doesn’t run after them and say, “Hey, everyone, I didn’t really mean you have to eat flesh and drink blood.” He doesn’t say that, but he lets them walk away because he wasn’t willing to compromise. He couldn’t compromise what he was teaching them. And so he turns to the disciples and asks them, “Will you leave too?” And Peter in his great profession of faith says, “Lord to whom else, shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”
As we come before the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, this is the same faith that we bring. Doesn’t mean that we understand our faith completely. We can’t, otherwise it wouldn’t be our faith– but rather it’s coming before the Lord and taking Jesus at his word. We believe that he is the resurrection and the life. And if he’s the resurrection and the life, then he is also the bread of life.