Sunday, October 18, 2015

Questions for Catholics - Part 5 - The Eucharist and John 6

For this section, Mr. Prasch asks about John 6 and the Eucharist and challenges that he has yet to have a priest be able to answer him and "perhaps you can?"  I hope Mr. Prasch did not mean that rhetorically and is actually looking for responses and will acknowledge them. 
But I have yet another question.

In the Gospel of St. John 6 I've heard it quoted, quoted, quoted, and re-quoted as applying to the Eucharist. We read the following, I’m beginning in verse 47…

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
Notice St. John, quoting Jesus, says that Jesus said if you believe in Jesus you have eternal life. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life, he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.” – the Gospel of St. John 3:36 in the Roman Catholic Bible. Jesus said, “If a man believes in Me though he die yet shall He live for he’s passed from death to life” – the Gospel of St. John 5:24 according to the Roman Catholic Bible. Belief is the key to eternal life.
A point I like to bring out in response to this argument, Prasch has brought up himself, but glosses over it.  "He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him."  So, if the Son commands you, not once, not twice, not even five or six times, but NINE TIMES in a single context to eat His body and/or drink His blood - you should obey Him, if you want eternal life in you!  Do not try to rationalize your way out of this nine-fold command, just obey it!  What kind of belief do you have if you refuse to obey Him?  Let us continue with Prasch's question(s) and arguments.
“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.
Jesus is saying that the manna that fell in the wilderness in the book of Exodus is a symbol of Him. It is the type, He is the antitype.

Now I am told that this refers to communion, the Lord's Supper at the Eucharist. The Lord’s Supper – the Eucharist, comes of the Jewish Passover. The Last Supper was a Jewish Passover meal called a “seder”. But Jews had to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem at Passover time; this was not at Passover and it was not in Jerusalem. Whatever applies to the Lord’s Supper does not apply in the direct sense because it's not the Last Supper. It's the wrong time of year, it’s the wrong place. 
Let us get something straight here and correct Prasch's view of history.  Yes, John 6 is at the wrong time of year, but that while being the time/place He issued the nine-fold command to eat His body and/or drink His blood but that was not the first time He administered the Eucharist.  The first celebration of the Eucharist was during the Passover Seder Jews also celebrate Passover wherever they are.  
The manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist.  Both are "bread from Heaven" but the manna was a physical meal while the Eucharist, while also being "real food" is a spiritual meal. 

It is, first of all, talking about how the Exodus was a symbol of Jesus – the manna.
“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.”
He would give His flesh for the life of the world.
Then the Jews…
…that means the Judeans, not all Jews but the religious establishment,,,
…began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
Those influenced by the Pharisees would have had this argument.
Actually, "the Jews" refers to those who were with Him and the Apostles at the synagogue in Capernaum during this sermon.  It is important to note what it is they are grumbling about - it is about the reality of Jesus being able to give them His flesh to eat - exactly the type of argument Prasch is giving us now!  Let us continue...
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.”
Unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood you cannot live.  I'm told this is the Eucharist and it is the key to eternal life. That's what I was taught in Catholic school. The context, however, going all the way back to verse 32 is the Exodus. No fewer than three places Jesus says in the same passage that the key – the key – to eternal life is belief.
Again, it is "no fewer than three places," it is actually nine places in this small section.
But I am told the bread and wine was transubstantiated, turned into His literal body and blood and then eaten. How do I account for this? Well, the first problem I had as a Catholic looking at this was this: Just reading on…
These things…
…in verse 59…
…He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum”…
…not at the Last Supper in Jerusalem when the Lord’s Supper communion was instituted.
This has already been address, He taught it at Capernaum and instituted it at Jerusalem during the Passover Seder.  This is not a troublesome reference so I am not sure why Prasch has difficulty with it, unless he just never thought of it this way.  How do you account for the teaching of transubstantiation?  Jesus Himself said, "This IS My body" and "This IS My blood..." those who "believe" Him don't doubt these words and/or try to rationalize their way out of them.  In John 6, nine times Jesus commands we partake of His body and/or blood stating His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink - not symbolism or parable.
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing…
How can eating His flesh be the key to eternal life if “the flesh profits nothing”? “Eating the flesh” meant believing His words. I will prove it.
While I appreciate Prasch's confidence, his "proof" is yet to be seen and I am just as confident that my counter arguments will "disprove" Prasch's conclusions.
We have to read this as a literary unit, as a “gospel”. In John 1 of this same gospel St. John writes that “the Word became flesh” (Jn. 1:14) – the Greek word “sarx”. “Logos” became “sarx”. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate.
I'm really okay with reading John's Gospel in the context of John's Gospel as a whole.  John 1:14 is an excellent connection to John 6, for "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."  This is completely complimentary to the literal reading of John 6 as it exemplifies that God Himself became incarnate, by the Holy Ghost through the Virgin Mary.  Going to other contexts, even by the same writer, does not so easily compliment the Gospel message.
Look at the New Testament, first of all in the book of Revelation 10:10. This Same St. John, the same apostle who wrote this in the Apocalypse, says…
I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it…
Belief equals eating the Word of God; you make it part of yourself. He was the Word incarnate, it becomes incarnate within us, it becomes part of us. He ate the Word.
The little book which, in John's vision, the angel has is not the Gospel, it is not the Word made flesh and back to Word again, it is an eschatological prophecy.  These are not the same context and are not arguing to the same point.  Apples and oranges, Mr. Prasch.  That being said, we DO believe that in partaking of the Eucharist that Christ becomes part of us and dwells within us.  So, there is tangential relation here but it actually would go against Prasch's position.
Let’s look at the book of the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel 3…
Then He said to me, “Son of man…
…just as Jesus is called “Son of Man”…
…eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll.
So he ate the Word of God.
And so Ezekiel, like John, eats the scroll.  I fail to see how this helps Prasch's cause.
The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah said the following in 15:16…
Your words were found and I ate them…
The Word becomes flesh. You “eat” the Word by believing it. “He who believes has eternal life”. Jesus says in John 6, the flesh profits nothing. How could it possibly be the key to eternal life? You have three problems; that's what I discovered as a Catholic.
Prophetic vision statements of eating "words" are not the same thing as obeying Jesus' nine-fold command to eat/drink His flesh/blood.  So, how could this possibly be the key to eternal life?  Because Jesus said it is!  Jesus did not just issue the commands and then leave everyone to figure it out for themselves.  No, to those who had faith in Him, did not turn and walk away from Him, He provides the means of fulfilling this command in instituting the Eucharist.
The first problem was on one hand I was being told that the sacrament of the Eucharist was the key to eternal life, but the catechism told me salvation comes by the sacraments of baptism and penance – that’s how sin is taken away. It contradicts itself. Which sacrament saves? Now in fact by reading the Bible I came to realize no sacrament saves – Jesus saves. It's not an ex opere operato ritual called a “sacrament”. The sacraments are emblems; it’s believing in Him through faith and repentance. That is the first problem. How can the Eucharist be the key to eternal life if your own catechism says it’s other sacraments?
All the sacraments are means of grace given to us by Jesus Christ Himself.  They are outward signs, instituted by Christ to give grace (Baltimore Catechism).  The Eucharist is the central sacrament, having other sacraments which also give grace does not detract from that.  If I give you $100 and someone else gives you $50, does that second gift detract or add to the first? 
The second problem: Once more, in the first church council of the book of Acts of the Apostles chapter 15, the apostles, including Peter,outlawed the consumption of blood as a pagan demonic practice. Cannibalism was outlawed as pagan and demonic. Christians were told not to do it. If it is literal blood, you can’t drink it. The apostles were told by the Holy Spirit to forbid its consumption. “The flesh profits nothing”. That’s the second problem.
The actual verse is Acts 15:20, and James while he mentions blood, it actually doesn't "outlaw" this, he is trying to lessen the burden on the Gentile converts and says to "avoid" it.  That, and it is in conjunction with their former pagan practices of invalid marriage, meat from strangled animals and blood.  The Eucharist is not a pagan practice, it is an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace.     
The third problem is, again, Jesus was a Jew. This had to be celebrated at Passover in Jerusalem. What He would have said, the Hebrew prayer, would have been, “Za guphe sha ani ashbar b’ad’chem zot asu l’zichroni; ha’cos ha’zot he ha’brit ha’had asch zot asu l’zichroni.” “This is my body I’ve broken for you, this cup is the cup of the new covenant of my blood poured out for you, do it in remembrance of Me.” (Lk. 22:17-20) The apostles and Jesus were Jewish; they understood it would have been a memorial if they understood what it meant at all. Obviously the Sanhedrin and the people they influenced did not. It’s a memorial. “Do this in remembrance of Me”. Consumption of blood was a pagan practice, not a Jewish one.
Actually, back to John 6, the Jews accepted Jesus' words as literal - and they walked away because they could not believe His words.  Jesus did not chase after them and say, "Hold on guys!  That was symbolic language, I was speaking in parables."  No, He did not, and when He spoke in parables, He explained the meaning of the parables to His Apostles - did He explain away the literal meaning here?  No!  He doubled down and said, "Will you also leave?"  No fluffy rationalizations, He meant what He said and the Jews and many of His own disciples "turned and walked with Him no more" (John 6:66-67).  

Now let's look at the "institution narratives" such as in Luke 22:17-20.  Jesus does not say, "This is symbolic of My body, etc." no, He states "This IS My body, etc."  The reality of the Real Presence is confirmed by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 11:27-29 makes it crystal clear that partaking in this Eucharist (which he just repeated the consecration narrative in verses 23-26) is partaking in the body and blood of the Lord and to do so unworthily the person eats and drinks judgment upon themselves for not recognizing the body and the blood of our Lord.
That is my question. If your own catechism says salvation comes by baptism and penance, how can it come by the Eucharist? 
You will have to understand that Catholics don't buy into the whole "sola" slogan thing.  Salvation is not by baptism and penance alone, nor is it by the Eucharist alone.  There are seven sacraments, and every Catholic should participate in at least six of them.  
If the flesh profits nothing, how can it be talking about literal flesh, given the fact that the apostles condemned its literal consumption?
There are two subjects in that one sentence so I'll deal with them individually.  First off, "the flesh profits nothing" for it is not intended to be a meal which one takes to fill their belly, in fact Scripture tells us that if you are hungry, you should eat at home so as to not bring judgment upon yourself (1 Cor. 11:34).  

Secondly, that the substance becomes His flesh is not the same as the condemnation of eating the flesh offered to idols.  You're mixing teachings again here. 
The doctrine of transubstantiation was formulated in its present form in the Middle Ages by Thomas Aquinas based on Aristotle’s “philosophy of accidents” which was debunked by modern science, chemistry, and physics.
The doctrine of transubstantiation didn't go by that name until sometime later, but the truth of it was taught by Jesus Christ Himself when He dictated the words of consecration "This IS My body..."  Then we have all the Early Church Fathers (some of whom I will cite) who present the teaching precisely as we believe and accept to this day - it did not wait for St. Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages!  Here's a sampling:
St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 A.D.)
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, WHICH IS THE FLESH OF JESUS CHRIST, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I DESIRE HIS BLOOD, which is love incorruptible. (Letter to the Romans 7:3)
Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: FOR THERE IS ONE FLESH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, and one cup IN THE UNION OF HIS BLOOD; one ALTAR, as there is one bishop with the presbytery… (Letter to the  Philadelphians 4:1)
They [i.e. the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that THE EUCHARIST IS THE FLESH OF OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. (Letter to Smyrnians 7:1)
St. Justin the Martyr (c. 100 - 165 A.D.)
We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [Baptism], and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined.
For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, AND BY THE CHANGE OF WHICH our blood and flesh is nourished, IS BOTH THE FLESH AND THE BLOOD OF THAT INCARNATED JESUS. (First Apology, 66)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 140 - 202 A.D.)
…He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, "THIS IS MY BODY." The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, HE CONFESSED TO BE HIS BLOOD.
He taught THE NEW SACRIFICE OF THE NEW COVENANT, of which Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, had signified beforehand: [quotes Mal 1:10-11]. By these words He makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; BUT THAT IN EVERY PLACE SACRIFICE WILL BE OFFERED TO HIM, and indeed, a pure one; for His name is glorified among the Gentiles. (Against Heresies 4:17:5)
But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given IS THE BODY OF THEIR LORD, and the cup HIS BLOOD, if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator… How can they say that the flesh which has been nourished BY THE BODY OF THE LORD AND BY HIS BLOOD gives way to corruption and does not partake of life? …For as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, IS NO LONGER COMMON BREAD BUT THE EUCHARIST, consisting of two elements, earthly and heavenly… (Against Heresies 4:18:4-5)
If the BODY be not saved, then, in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His BLOOD; and neither is the cup of the EUCHARIST THE PARTAKING OF HIS BLOOD nor is the bread which we break THE PARTAKING OF HIS BODY…He has declared the cup, a part of creation, TO BE HIS OWN BLOOD, from which He causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, HE HAS ESTABLISHED AS HIS OWN BODY, from which He gives increase to our bodies.
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 is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, WHICH IS ETERNAL LIFE -- flesh which is nourished BY THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD…receiving the Word of God, BECOMES THE EUCHARIST, WHICH IS THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST(Against Heresies 5:2:2-3)

St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 216 A.D.)
Calling her children about her, she [the Church] nourishes them with holy milk, that is, with the Infant Word…The Word is everything to a child: both Father and Mother, both Instructor and Nurse. "EAT MY FLESH," He says, "AND DRINK MY BLOOD." The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutriments. HE DELIVERS OVER HIS FLESH, AND POURS OUT HIS BLOOD; and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children. O incredible mystery! (Instructor of Children 1:6:42,1,3)

Council of Nicaea (c. 325 A.D.)
It has come to the attention of the holy and great council that in some localities and cities deacons give the Eucharist to presbyters, although neither the canon nor the custom permits those who do NOT offer sacrifice to give the Body of Christ to those who do offer the sacrifice(Canon 18)

St. John Chrysostom (c. 344 - 407 A.D.)
Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the SACRIFICIAL VICTIM WHO IS PLACED THEREON! (Homilies on Romans 8:8)
Christ is present. The One [Christ] who prepared that [Holy Thursday] table is the very One who now prepares this [altar] table. For it is not a man who makes the SACRIFICIAL GIFTS BECOME the Body and Blood of Christ, but He that was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and the grace is of God, "THIS IS MY BODY," he says. This statement TRANSFORMS the gifts. (Homilies on Treachery of Judas 1:6)

St. Augustine (c. 354 - 430 A.D.)
"That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God IS THE BODY OF CHRIST. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend HIS BODY AND BLOOD, WHICH HE POURED OUT FOR US UNTO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS." (Sermons 227)
"The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, BECOMES CHRIST'S BODY." (Sermons 234:2)
"What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that THE BREAD IS THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE CHALICE [WINE] THE BLOOD OF CHRIST." (Sermons 272)
"How this ['And he was carried in his own hands'] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. FOR CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: 'THIS IS MY BODY.' FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS." (Psalms 33:1:10)
That should suffice for now, and there are many, many more I could quote/cite.  The point is, to say that the teaching of transubstantiation began in the Middle Ages is absolutely false. 
I won't go into that now (modern science, chemistry and physics), but that is my question.
Yes, don't go into the science approach because this isn't about science - it's about faith and trusting in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He commanded, nine times over in John 6 that we eat His flesh and/or drink His blood or we have "no life" in us.  Later He provided the means of eating His flesh and drinking His blood when He instituted the Eucharist on that first Holy Thursday, the week of His passion, death and resurrection.  Denying our Lord and rationalizing or blaming it on science is no different than what the Atheist or Agnostic does.
If the flesh profits nothing, if Jesus said the key is belief – eating His flesh is believing the Word, if the consumption of blood was outlawed, how can it be what I was told as a Catholic and what you were told? It can't possibly be if you’re not allowed to consume blood and the flesh profits nothing. Please answer my question. I've yet to find a priest who can, maybe you can.
I believe I already have answered your questions (you asked more than one).   The key IS belief, and part of believing would include obeying our Lord and Savior.  He commanded it, so don't try to use rationalizations to get out of accepting Him, Jesus Christ, at His word.  It's time to come home, Jacob.

I have also already done several articles on the topic of John 6 and the Eucharist and I invite you to check those out as well:
Questions for Catholics Index 

Part Four - The Rock

Part Six - Doctrine of Demons?

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