One anti-Catholic apologist declared as blasphemy the claim that Catholics “eat” Jesus. In the same breath, he contended that popes forbade bible reading as illegal. Both statements are inexact and misleading. Catholics receive in Holy Communion the sacrament of Christ’s real presence and do so by the Lord’s command. As for the Scriptures, the prohibition was not against reading Scripture but against those translations and texts of the reformers which distorted the true Word of God. Remember, even Martin Luther inserted his own theology into the sacred texts and omitted books (from both the Old and New Testaments) which he found disagreeable. Viewing the Church and the civil society as two sides of the same coin, both Catholics and Protestants alike sometimes exerted undue force in maintaining the ranks and orthodoxy. Exaggerations of anti-Catholics regarding such coercion are not to be taken seriously. Further, the Church herself, then as today, was often incapable to stay the hand of civil authority intent upon using religion as an excuse for intolerance and brutality. Incidents of murder and torture by “unholy Romish priests” are rarely documented; in any case, there is something demented in referencing incidents which happened centuries ago as if they happened last Tuesday.
The Catholic Church is the source for the Scriptures: members from her community were inspired in their authorship and by her own authority she determined the canon. The proliferation of bibles throughout the world was not the fruit of Reformation-Protestantism but of the mechanical printing press. Rome has encouraged the reading of the Bible and has long offered a special indulgence to those who do so every day. Unlike the anti-Catholic fundamentalist, the entire Bible (without deletion of books) is offered her people. Further, her use of a lectionary system for liturgies has resulted in a greater variety of biblical passages than what is usual in Protestant services. The Catholic faith is affirmed by an honest and comprehensive understanding of Scripture while the anti-Catholic resorts to biblical fragments, out of context and ignorantly misinterpreted. One anti-Catholic bigot notes that John 6 is frequently used against him by so-called “idolatrous” and “pagan” Catholics. He cites John 6:51,53-58:
“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. 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.”
The anti-Catholic bigot argues that Catholics neglect verse 63 which illustrates, so he says, that Jesus did not mean what he said literally: “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
In other words, until verse 63, Jesus is lying? Sorry, I do not think so. Our Savior is not fickle in his teachings. He would not deliberately mislead and anger the Jews; he meant what he said about the Eucharist. This verse becomes clearer if we look at the one which follows it: “But there are some of you who do not believe.” This resonates with verse 52, conveniently omitted by the anti-Catholic apologist: “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’” Did the critic purposely omit this line, knowing that he found himself associated with the disbelieving Jews? It sure seems that way. The Jews are murmuring because they do not like what they hear. Some of their number walk away. They know full well that Jesus means what he says. Their sensibilities, especially regarding blood are offended. They will have none of it. It is a mystery that requires supernatural faith to accept. Verse 63 is not a reference to Christ’s Eucharistic body but is used as it was previously in John 3:6-7. We read: “What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’” “Spirit . . . flesh” is a Hebraic form of speech which does the very opposite of what the anti-Catholic bigot claims. It affirms the truth of Christ’s Eucharistic teaching and that to accept it we must be given the gift of faith by his heavenly Father.
We need to pray that the anti-Catholic bigot will be given a greater share in the true faith. He is usually filled with much anger and hate. He can only measure his own religion in reference to that which he opposes. I would fathom to guess that were there no Catholic religion, he would have no faith at all– or perhaps I should call it an anti-faith? He is quick to judge and to damn Catholics even though there is no consideration that if he is wrong then he has blasphemed the work of the Holy Spirit.
The anti-Catholic may also sin by presumption of God’s saving grace. We live in the “sure and certain hope” of our salvation, leaving our eternal destiny to divine providence. The Lord says, “Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.” While the fruits of Christ’s presence and loving ministry are manifested in the life of the Church, the anti-Catholic critic contends that Jesus shall respond to us with the words from Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity!” Many of our Protestant brethren, with whom we would differ on points of doctrine and manners of worship, work alongside us in the promotion of the Gospel of Life. However, the anti-Catholic bigot contends that these groups are contaminated by their association with Catholics and thus are also lost. What can we say to such a critic? If all he understands are isolated bible texts, then let him pay heed to this one: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-16).
Every Catholic needs to remember the anti-Catholic and the fallen-away Catholic each time he receives Holy Communion. We need to dedicate our Holy Hours to prayer on their behalf and make reparation for their insults against Jesus, his Mother, and the Church. May our prayer rise like incense to heaven and be found pleasing to Almighty God.
For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.
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