June 18, 2006

Communion: Catholic v. Christian

Today I was channel surfing and stumbled across EWTN and a rerun of that elderly nun Mother Angelica. She is the spittin-image of my 8th grade teacher, Sister Eugenie, of whom I think fondly. It was a repeat of a January 15, 1994 Mother Angelica Live program with a focus on the "Eucharist." Mother was lamenting the Roman Catholic Church liberals who were no longer putting the doctrine of transubstantiation front and center. Callers also voiced their shock that priests in some Catholic churches were allowing people to stand instead of kneel as the elements were being changed into "the body, blood, soul, and divinity" of Jesus. Mother responded that the host is Jesus himself and is to be adored, not merely venerated.

Mother said there were people labeling her a heretic for her Latin Catholic traditional beliefs and had a few laughs about that. She looked into the camera and said, "If you are ever asked by someone to show them where Jesus is, we can point right to him." She then lifted up her necklace that was a chain with a miniature monstrance dangling from it containing a round host. She caressed it saying that she misses her crucifix but this is actually Jesus himself. "Once you find a tabernacle, " she continued, "I want you to remember this, Jesus said, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves’" (reading from the sixth chapter of John).

She only needed to back up a couple of chapters in the Gospel of John and see that Jesus gives us the interpretation of this imagery. "But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’" (John 4:32-34). And He later said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). So if the flesh profits nothing, then any literal flesh is worthless. But his words are life giving because He is the bread of life.

Roman Catholics believe that they receive Jesus through the mouth by receiving the Eucharist and that Jesus physically dwells in their tabernacles. However, the Bible contradicts this. In the Gospel of John 16:7, Jesus told his disciples, "I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you." If He could be visited in tabernacles on altars, He would have said, I am not going away, I will dwell with you behind the veil on the altars, so please visit me so I won’t be lonely.

In actual fact, Jesus is with us by the Holy Spirit who inhabits the believers, not some man-made tabernacle. "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans" (John 14:15-18). So He is present with us by His Holy Spirit, not by inhabiting a wafer in the shape of a host.

One email I received from a Catholic woman clearly demonstrates Catholics' idea of their "Eucharist."

Dear Jackie: "There is something we have where you will sure find what you are looking for. The Blessed Sacrament is Jesus himself and if you are telling the truth about loving Catholics maybe you should visit an adoration chapel. Hopefully he will change your doubts about our faith and like Saul you will also see the truth and become a Paul. Spend your time with Jesus in adoration, contemplation, and silence. Let Jesus himself come to you with his love and put your trust in him. We are human we make errors but Jesus himself is all truth and in the Eucharist you will find no deception. He is there waiting for you. Imprisoned by his love for us. So if you were truthful about your affection towards Catholics then with that respect I invite you to visit Jesus exposed in a Holy hour of Adoration. Let the Truth shine on you my Dear, --Margot"

How sad that this lady and Mother Angelica believe that Jesus is "imprisoned" on their altars. Mother Angelica ended her program admonishing her audience to go visit Jesus in "Eucharistic Adoration." "Go to your church this week and pray to Jesus in the "Eucharist." Let us look at the "Eucharist" when we go to see him and say, ‘I believe you are here’… tell him, ‘I love you, Jesus.’"

In critiquing the Catholics for corrupting the Lord’s Supper, we mustn’t be robbed of the truth of its spiritual significance. Paul puts it in its proper focus in 1 Corinthians, chapter 10. He compares New Testament communion to the spiritual food that the Israelites had in the wilderness, the manna and the water that came from the Rock that Moses struck, and that Rock spiritually-speaking was Christ (vss. 1-4). Was that Rock literally Christ? Was the manna literally Christ? Certainly not in a literal sense, but it represented Him among them, just as the cup and the bread we have at communion are representative of the Lord’s body and blood with us and as we partake together, we are joining with Him and with one another as the body of Christ.

Just as the Rock was struck to give life to the Israelites in the desert, the Lamb of God was struck and crucified to give us life eternal. As we take the bread and the cup, we celebrate this truth until He returns. In verse 17, we’re told, "For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread." We partake of "one bread," not flesh, but it is still bread when we partake of it.

This comparison comes with a warning we must pay attention to. We who share this spiritual communion with Jesus and one another (vs 12) "take heed lest he fall" as so many Israelites did in the wilderness. In this time of unprecedented apostasy, we do well in recognizing the dangers of unbelief that affected the Israelites. We are no better than them. We’re told, "But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them" (1 Cor. 10:5-7a). "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (v. 12). "Therefore my beloved, flee from idolatry" (vs. 14)

What Mother Angelica via the Roman Catholic Church has done is make an idol out of the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and our communion with Him and one another. In doing so, they have clouded the real meaning and robbed many Christians of this spiritual blessing. The Apostle John recognized this danger and ended his first epistle with this warning, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (1 John 5:21).


Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing such truths to mere babes in the faith. Your truth is so simple; forgive those who complicate it and thereby confuse many. Help us to see the meaning in Your parables so that they will transform our lives as we present our bodies as living sacrifices to You. Give us the wisdom and knowledge we need in these perilous times to know the difference between the real and the counterfeit. The enemy is wreaking so much havoc among us by perverting the truth so as to deceive even the very elect. Who are we to make sense of it apart from Your illumination through the Holy Spirit? Fill us afresh, Oh Lord. We need You more than ever as the Day approaches. We give you all honor and glory through Christ Jesus, Amen!


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