By Susan Ciancio
“Mommy, I see it!” my then-six-year-old son whispered to me in Mass.
“What do you see?” I asked.
I knew exactly what he was talking about because, just a few weeks earlier, I had explained to all my children that a miracle takes place every day at Mass when the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. We call this transubstantiation.
Yes, as Catholics, we know that this miracle occurs. We truly are receiving Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. It is not merely a symbol. It is not something we simply think. We know this to be true.
And how do we know this? Christ Himself taught us.
In John 6:48-58, Christ says:
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
To the concern and distress of the Jews and the disciples, Christ says this more than once. They do not understand, and many of them walk away. But the 12 Apostles stay. In fact, when Christ asks them if they will leave too, Peter responds: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Though the Apostles still did not understand everything Christ did or said, they were sure of at least one thing—and that was that Christ was indeed the Son of God. They walked with Him every day. They talked with Him. They witnessed His miracles. And nearly all of them gave their lives for Him.
Soon after, just before Christ was arrested and crucified, He instituted the Eucharist. We read in Mark 14:22-24: “While they were eating, [Christ] took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.’”
So, yes, Christ was indeed telling us that He is present in the Eucharist. He was telling us that He is the living bread. In fact, His birth in Bethlehem foreshadowed this, as the name Bethlehem literally means bread. How amazing is that?
It is an awesome privilege and blessing that we, as Catholics, can receive Him every single day, if we are free of mortal sin.
Yet, a 2019 Pew Research survey tells us that just one-third of Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ. Why is this? It’s because they have not been properly catechized. People have not been taught about this awesome miracle that we can choose to see every day.
So what are we to do? First, we must understand and believe. Second, we must teach—our children, our families, our friends, and our fellow parishioners. We must all take it upon ourselves to speak up and defend Christ in the Eucharist.
A young man named Carlo Acutis, beatified last October, did this exact thing. In fact, he catalogued a list of Eucharistic miracles for the whole world to see. He wanted to show people the love and awesomeness of God. And he rightly believed that the Eucharist was his “highway to heaven.” The Eucharist is our highway to heaven as well.
This Lent, as we contemplate Christ’s death and Resurrection, let us never forget the miracle we are blessed to see in Mass. And let us never forget the faith of a small child who excitedly says “Mommy, I see it!,” the faith of a young man who wanted to share the Eucharist with the world, or the faith that Peter exhibited when he asked “To whom shall we go?”
God is the alpha and the omega—the beginning and the end. There is no one else we can go to. And we can receive Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity every single day. What a blessing! What a miracle!
Photo courtesy of ritalaura