Why the Eucharist is Most Wonderful Gift to Receive

By: William Hemsworth

On June 23 we celebrated Corpus Christi Sunday, and what a great day it was.  Though we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist everyday at Mass, there is a tendency to get complacent.  This seems to be our human nature, because if we do something enough we tend to go through the motions.

Eucharist

On this day the church asks us to take a step back and take a moment to remember what an awesome gift the Eucharist is.  In honor of this, I also want to take a step back to look at what scripture and the early church tells us about the blessed sacrament.

Though some terms for the Eucharist developed over time, the belief of what the Eucharist is has been around since New Testament times.  Jesus gave a speech that we call the Bread of Life Discourse in which he says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood that we have no life within us (John 6:53).  The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us the words of institution that we hear so often (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-39).

In Summary of these Jesus tells us to eat the bread and says “This is my body”.  Then he took the cup of wine and “This is the cup of my blood that was given for you”.  Notice how our Lord says “this is” and not that it is merely a symbolic action?

Catholic Eucharist meme

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one that held true in the doctrine of the early church.  The big heresy going around in the first couple centuries of the church was Gnosticism.  The Gnostics believes that all matter was evil, and as such Jesus himself didn’t actually die on the cross.  Since all matter was deemed evil by the Gnostics, the Eucharist was something that was unfathomable?  After all, if matter were evil, then there was no way that the bread and wine can transform into the body and blood of Christ.

Heresy gif

The early church fathers understood the gnostic line of thinking and used the Eucharist as a way to refute them.  In approximately 107 A.D. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes in his letter to the Smyrneans, “They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again”.

Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D., states that the bread and wine changes to the body and blood of Christ upon the prayer of the priest.  In his great work titled Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus writes “the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist.”

There are many other such quotes like this span for several centuries.  One such quote comes from St. John Chrystostom who died in 407 A.D.  Describing the Eucharist the great saint states, “How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.”

Eucharist

These quotes go on and on, and through them we see that the teaching of the church from the beginning is that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.  At this point you are probably wondering why I am quoting all these great saints.  Friends, my heart hurts.  For every one person that enters the Catholic church, there are six people who leave.  Why would they leave such a great gift such as the Eucharist?  When I ask those that leave, their answers range from the sexual abuse scandal to a disagreement with a priest.  However, a majority that I have spoken to leave because they do not believe what the church teaches about the Eucharist.  Some didn’t even know the church’s teaching.

Perhaps we have taken this great sacrament for granted and our actions no longer show the reverence it deserves.  Perhaps some have just been poorly catechized. Maybe it is both.  I urge you my friends to take a moment to reflect on the greatness that is the Eucharist.  The very gift of himself that our Lord gives us to nourish and strengthen us.  May we never take it for granted and show it the reverence it deserves.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

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Reconciling Free Will with God’s Omniscience: Evidence from C.S. Lewis and My Life

free-will-heaven

Does free will exist if God is all-knowing? Does God lack omniscience if free will for humanity exists? Questions such as these have flummoxed philosophers since the inception of philosophic thought! Fatalism is the belief that human actions happen through necessity and as a result humans ultimately lack free will. Upon initially hearing this argument as a new student to philosophy I too developed angst. How do I reconcile the Christian assertion of free will with God’s omniscience? For if a being is not omniscient the being cannot be God and if human freedom is a façade—Christianity is a sinister masquerade.

Opponents to Christianity may look at my stance so far with euphoria. Here a Catholic man admitting his struggles to reconcile basic Christian philosophy. I would tell any adversary that such triumph is premature.  Through the lucid writing of C.S. Lewis, specifically his work Mere Christianity, and my own humble experiences in my nascent fatherhood I learned it is possible to reconcile the apparent Catch-22 between free will and divine omniscience!

divine-timeline.jpg

Light from Lewis

Mere Christianity was a book that I read after taking several theology courses. Yet surprisingly, instead of acting as a mere introductory and basic level of Christianity, C.S. Lewis managed to shed light on the looming battle over the omniscience of God versus the freedom of mankind. In the chapter titled Time and Beyond Time, Lewis put forth an incredibly simple and insightful example to describe God’s relation to time and space. He states, “Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another…If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn”(Mere Christianity 167-168).

If you look in the above picture the blue arrow represents all of time and space. In other words the whole of the universe and reality as we know and experience is represented on that line. God is so above our comprehension that He is represented as “existing” on the rest of the page [see image above]. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ took place in a specific place on the line of time and space but God still remains above, below, outside of time while still being able to take on human flesh and live in time and space for 33 years!

divine omniscience

Later on in the chapter Lewis acknowledges the same difficulty I put forth at the beginning of this post—how do we reconcile God’s omniscience with human free will? According to him, “Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being the He can see ahead and we cannot…But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are ‘Now’ for Him” (Mere Christianity p. 170)

Clarity from My Children

 Together with the insight Lewis gave me on the issue of reconciling God’s foreknowledge with free will, my experience as a father schooled me on this issue as well. Let me explain. I have learned that as my children continue to grow I have become aware of their preferences and likes. Once I asked my oldest son if he wanted a animal crackers or a cheese stick for his evening snack. I had a foreknowledge that my son would select the cheese stick because I know that is his preference [AND YES HE DID CHOOSE THE COLBY-JACK CHEESE STICK J]. Another time I asked my daughter if she wanted to watch Frozen or Moana. I knew the answer was the latter and she choose that movie for that day.

Despite my foreknowledge of their choice I did not stop my son’s and daughter’s freedom to choose. In a more deeper and intimate way God as our Father knows us better that I know my children. God already knows our deepest longings and loves us so much that He allows free will to take place.

fathersonwalking

Both Lewis’ example and my paternal experiences helped me reconcile the seeming chasm between God’s omniscience and human free will. While these examples ultimately fall short in explaining the nature of God’s omniscience I am still at peace with these explanations. I realize that I am a mere part of creation and my Creator is infinitely greater and more loving than I may possibly imagine. This endless wonder and awe about God is a gift. Let us not quiver at the omniscience of God but joyfully ponder it every day!

Thank you for sharing!

Waiting for the One

The sleek shadowy black corvette ahead of me roared its engine. This sudden sound caused my dropping eyelids to pop open. Peering around me I noticed the grey dreary sky adorned with ominous clouds. Fresh precipitation remained on the ground. The scent of a fresh rainfall 🌧 lingered. 

While some people lament about the weather this day, I wait, in joyful anticipation, for the cloudy ☁️ doldrums. After what seemed like an eternity, the sports car moved forward. Inching forward, another aroma mixed with the dewy scent. A sweet, yet bitter smell engaged my olfactory sense. 

Waiting. Has time actually stood still? The longing persists. It is difficult to wait any longer. Five minutes has passed. Will another five or 500 pass before I acquire this liquid gold?

Thank goodness! 🙌 The roar of the ebony corvette wakens me again. Looking up out the paned window I notice my time has arrived. Waiting. Waiting all too long.

Finally, I am met with those beautiful words—“Here is your one large coffee ☕️ !”

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Facts from a Whimsical Wednesday

Disclaimer: There is a sixth dimension that oftentimes interacts with mankind. It enters time and space unexpectedly and usually leads to mirth. Sometimes provoked by science, other times by faith, these experiences usually arrive in the mundane. This is the dimension of imagination. It is what I call…the Whimsical Zone!


Mark Twain wrote, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” I am naturally a worrier. Anxiety cripples me during a stressful or confusing day at work or home. Pulling yourself out of fretfulness is like attempting to pull yourself out of a deep hole covered in ice—it just does not work. Earlier this week, I encountered a series of unexpected whimsical moments that elicited joy. I have written a few times on my encounters with the whimsical, capricious things that uplift my spirits. Most peculiarly, and alliteratively, these encounters with the jovial occur on Wednesdays!

Spot the Spot

Last Wednesday morning, I was reading Daredevil #23 when my three year-old crawled onto my lap to look at the pictures. Looking at the villain, Spot, he exclaimed and pointed to the white and black dotted figure, “Daddy, look a firetruck (dog)!” I suddenly busted out laughing and the grin on my face remained for at least 5 minutes! I immediately woke up my wife and told her.

My son thoroughly enjoys toy cars, especially fire engines. His penchant for pups stems from his obsessive watching of PawPatrol and his favorite character is a Dalmatian named Marshall. If you are a comic book geek like myself or simply are curious about this spotty villain Spot I will tell you this—his superpowers involve an ability to create portals that lead to an alternate dimension and instantly cross short distances. How cool is that?!

Nuts about Nutty Bars

Another whimsical wonder I witnessed this Wednesday occurred on the drive to work. I noticed a Little Debbie truck ahead of me in the left lane.  I was a bit irritated because I was running late and the vehicle acted like the speed limit was under 20 mph. Switching lanes, I zoomed past it. I noticed the right side of the truck adorned with a picture of my favorite Little Debbie product—Nutty Bars. It took me a moment to realize that the truck’s wall read Nutty Bars instead of Nutty Buddy (a fairly recent name switch I was not happy with). This simple reminder of my favorite childhood snack instantly dispelled my annoyance.

What’s in a name?

St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” Humility cures pride—the source of all evil and root of daily annoyances or irritations. Something minor, now in hindsight I recognize it to be little, that used to bother me was when people messed up my name calling me Michael instead of Matthew. This somewhat common occurrence happened to me again today. This time instead of finding it annoying I found a certain levity in the situation. I simply replied back with a happy face emoji! I am grateful to have grown in humility and learned to find the whimsical in a former annoyance.

Fanny pack Fanatic

American film director Terrence Malick declared, “Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything.” Growing up in the 90s, many things lately have triggered my nostalgia—Pokémon, the N64, the carbonated drink Surge (yes I heard a reference to that the other day!), and revamped Disney movies. Arguably no item exemplifies the 90s culture, especially the corniness of it, as the fanny pack!

I received a text from my wife telling me of something epic she witnessed. I immediately called her back expecting to hear a milestone accomplishment from our baby or a funny thing our other kids said. “Matt, I just saw a lady at Walmart with a legit fanny pack!” she giggled over the phone.  As a fan of organization, corniness, and nostalgia her news added to my whimsical Wednesday.

If you are experiencing a dull, dreary, or a Debbie-downer type of day please don’t lose hope. Always be on the lookout for the ordinary, yet quirky happenings around you. You don’t need something extravagant to turn your attitude around. Ask for the gift of humility from the Holy Spirit and keep your eyes peeled for the hilariously mundane.

Thank you for sharing!