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Eucharistic Attitudes

Survey Results

As of Friday morning, June 8, 780 individuals had taken the survey, including 60 children. The survey went beyond our parish, as people in Europe, Africa, and Australia emailed me after taking the survey, asking for the results. Our parishioners shared this with family members and friends—11 non-Catholic Christians and 10 non-Christians took it too!

The Eucharist, the Incarnation, and the Power of God

     The survey linked the miracle of the Eucharist to the miracle of the Incarnation—if God has the power to assume human nature and become man (more than 98 percent of the respondents says he does) then Christ the God-man should have the power to assume bread and wine into his divinity and humanity. This is what we believe took place in the Last Supper, when Jesus Christ took bread and wine into his hands, saying “This is my body… this is my blood;” this is what we believe takes place in the Mass. Only 0.3 percent of the respondents thought this was impossible for God.

Why We Believe in the Eucharist?

     In question 8, you answered why do Catholics believe that the bread becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ at the Consecration? Only a very small percentage of people (1.3 percent) said that nothing could make them believe in the Incarnation and in the Real Presence, while 0.4 percent said they needed scientific proof. They challenge us with the question, how can you believe that a piece of bread can become Christ’s body, as it looks, feels, and tastes no different after the Consecration?

     This reminds me of something Scott Hahn once said—suppose Christ appeared to us as he did to his apostles, and came up to the sanctuary here and say: “I am Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate! I want you all to bow down and worship me.” Our natural reaction may be, “Wait a minute, Lord. You look like an ordinary man. How do we know you are who you say you are? How about this: why don’t you lay down here on the communion rail and let us do a little operation. If we cut you open and find that you have a divine spleen, then we will know that you are God. Or if we find a heart that is golden and emits rays of light…” NO! He is a “man like us in all things but sin.”

     So, why do we believe in the Incarnation? Why do we believe in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist? You answered: because it fulfills Old Testament prophecies (such as the Manna that fed God’s people in the desert for 40 years) that foretold it (96 percent); because of Jesus’ words (such as those at the Last Supper) declared it (95 percent); because Eucharist miracles ratifies Christ’s words (93 percent); and finally (91 percent said) because of the good we see in people—like John Paul II—who spend hours in front of the tabernacle adoring our Lord: this is where he got the power and strength to do the heroic things we saw in him.

Why Do We Believe?

     Our survey of Eucharistic attitudes showed, overwhelmingly, that practicing Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Why? Because we literally interpret key passages of Scripture, just like the early Christians did.

Early Christian Interpretation of Scripture

     Early Christians took literally Christ’s Eucharistic and Last Supper discourses, believing in Christ’s bodily resurrection and that Jesus really is God—one with the Father. St. Justin Martyr—who died in AD 165—linked Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist to his Incarnation:

We do not consume the Eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving [i.e., the Eucharistic Prayer].

First Apology, 66

     Gnosticism was a heresy that rejected the literal interpretation of John 1 (regarding the Incarnation) and John 6 (regarding the Real Presence). For them matter is evil and so God would never assume human flesh or bread. Yet St. Irenaeus—the bishop of Lyons in France who died in AD 202—countered them with the truth:

When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh . . . nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord. 

Against Heresies, 5.2.2-3

     Arianism was another heresy claimed that Christ is not one substance with the Father. St. Hilary—who died in AD 367—also interpreted John 1 and 6 literally:

For He Himself says: “My Flesh is truly Food, and My Blood is truly Drink. He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will remain in Me and I in Him” (John 6:55-56). As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own faith, it is truly Flesh and it is truly Blood.

The Trinity, 8.14

     This is a sample of how early Christians properly interpreted key Scripture passages on the Eucharist.

How Does it Occur?

     So, how does our Lord become really present in the consecrated host and chalice?

     Many people have trouble with the Eucharist because they don’t see any changes in the appearances of the bread and wine after the Consecration. In question 9, I asked what happened to the molecules of an apple or piece of bread when we eat it. 12.5 percent actually said they didn’t know, yet it doesn’t seem to bother them. They continue to eat believing that it somehow will benefit them.

     19 percent said that the body burns the food like a fire burns wood. That is a fairly medieval explanation, but for many it is satisfactory. The majority of you (66 percent) thought that our body takes control over the atoms and molecules, integrating them into the molecules and cells of our own flesh. One respondent added: “The atoms remain unchanged (i.e. there's no fission, fusion, or radioactive decay), but the atoms are rearranged as molecules are broken down by enzymes. Some of the products are absorbed into the body to be used as fuel and in building muscle, etc., and some are eliminated as waste.” Of course, all of that takes place under the dominion and control of our body.

     So if God can become man by assuming our human nature—taking dominion over it—then he should be able—through that humanity—to take dominion of the bread and wine and make them his body and blood. Now this takes a similar kind of power that is needed for becoming man in the womb of the Virgin Mary—but most of church-going Catholics believe that God precisely has that power.

What Does it Mean to Receive Communion?

     St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, described her First Communion in this way: “Ah! How sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: ‘I love You, and I give myself to You forever!’” (Story of a Soul, c. 4).

     In responding to question 10, almost everyone (99 percent) agreed that a kiss or holding hands does not involve controlling the other. Children tend to connect it to feeling good (37 percent), while 32 percent of adults, and 46 percent of children realized that a spiritual union also takes place.

     Holy Communion is a communion of bodies—our bodies with Christ’s—that produces a real spiritual union. This is what St. Paul seems to say to the Corinthians: “The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body… For, as it is written, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’ But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:13,16-17). So, God took flesh in Mary’s womb so that we could receive him in Communion; God wanted us to have a body—not be pure angelic spirits—so that we could receive him in Communion.

The Deadly Eucharistic Kiss

     So how does Jesus feel when someone receives him in Holy Communion who does not love Jesus, believe in the Real Presence, worship him regularly, or do all that he commands? How did Jesus feel in his Agony in the Garden, when Judas led a group of soldiers to arrest and crucify him? As the soldiers didn't know what Jesus looked like, Judas told them that he would point out Jesus by giving him a kiss. The soldiers then seized Jesus and dragged him to trial like a criminal.

     4 percent of adults and 9 percent of children thought that Jesus felt sorry for Judas, that Judas needed to kiss Jesus to let go of his guilt. 93 percent realized that Judas’ kiss hurt Jesus as a rejection of his love and friendship, with 62 percent perceiving that it represented a rejection of God’s infinite love for Judas, expressed in Christ’s prophecy: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Somehow this expresses how Jesus felt in anticipation of Judas’ kiss.

     How does a person make Jesus feel by betraying the Eucharist? Receiving Holy Communion is meant to be an even more intimate expression of love and obedience than a kiss. So, is not receiving our Lord in Communion “in an unworthy manner” a cause for us “to eat and drink judgment upon ourselves”? That seems to be what the Holy Spirit is telling us, through Scripture, the Church Fathers, and through the sensus fidei expressed in this survey. It is a similar if not worse betrayal. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.

CCC 1415

     Along this line, I composed an announcement for weddings and funerals at which many non-practicing and non- Catholics are in attendance:

      We are about to distribute Holy Communion, the most sacred of Sacraments for us Catholics. We believe we are receiving Christ’s real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the hosts made one with his person through his words. The act of receiving the Eucharist is the sacred oath of our communion with Christ and the Church, of our embracing all that Christ teaches through his Church, and of our abiding by all his commandments. Also, we must prepare our bodies by fasting at least an hour before Communion, and prepare our souls by confessing all mortal sins, such as missing Sunday Mass. If you are not Catholics or are not prepared to receive, please remain in the pews. Let’s all pray for the unity of all Christians and that one-day we may all be one in Faith and in doing God’s paternal will.


      Thank you all for participating in this survey. I’ve revised the survey—made it more child friendly—so we all can take the same survey, now at Please share it with your friends, family members and even non-Catholics to take it. Hopefully we get them to think more deeply about this profound mystery of our Faith.
Fr. John Waiss
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