Living the Gospel – June 6, 2021

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Today we celebrate The Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Pope Francis said: “The Eucharist communicates Jesus’ love for us: a love so great that He nourishes us with Himself.” Transubstantiation – the belief that during mass, the bread and wine used for Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ – is central to our Catholic faith. Yet a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center which was published in August of 2019, found that most self-identified Catholics don’t believe this core teaching. In fact, nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic mass, the bread and wine used in Communion “are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that “during Catholic mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.” So, was Jesus speaking literally? Had the bread He had taken from the table at the Last Supper mysteriously become Him? And the wine? Or was he speaking figuratively?

Well, let’s take a look at a major miracle, approved by the church, which took place in Lanciano, Italy. Lanciano is a medium-sized city of ancient Roman origins located near the Adriatic Sea. The miracle took place in the 8th century in a small church dedicated to Sts. Longinus and Domitian. According to legend and written records from witnesses, one of the priests doubted the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. While celebrating mass, no sooner had he pronounced the words of the consecration than the host was transformed into Flesh and the wine into Blood. Soon the blood coagulated into five irregularly shaped globules. In 1920, these relics were placed behind the main altar where they remain today. Beneath a marble ciborium is a marble tabernacle which contains the Eucharistic miracle. Close viewing is made available to the public by a stairway immediately behind the relics.

Over the centuries, numerous investigations have tested the authenticity of the relics. Those who studied the miracle agree that it was extraordinary how the flesh and blood remained preserved over the course of 12 centuries, despite having been left in their natural state and continuously exposed to the atmosphere and biological agents, for they found no evidence of preservatives that would have been used for embalming or mummification.

During the Last Supper, Jesus didn’t hold up the bread and say, “This represents my body.” He said, “This -is my Body. This- is-my Blood.” Is usually means “is.”

Occasionally God permits us to observe events such as in Lanciano, but that same miracle happens at every mass. At the consecration, the bread and wine are changed into the Real Presence of Jesus. Just as God fed Manna to the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land so He also feeds us with the real body and blood of His son for our journey back to Him.

Sylvia Bates