Unless you eat my flesh

Beloved in the Lord, at a conference that I attended, we met a Catholic professor named Dr. Bandt Pitre. During lunch, he told us truthfully, that he had not always been so committed to Christ. ‘When I was young, he says, ‘I did not take my faith seriously.
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The day came, however, when he was about to be married – to a Southern Baptist girl! They went to meet her Baptist minister. He said: ‘When the minister found out that I was Catholic, he grilled me for three strait hours. How can you follow the Pope? How can you worship Mary? How can you pray for the dead? Why do you worship statues? Your Church is the whore of Babylon! And of all things, how can you claim that Communion is actually the Body of Christ? Do you know what that would mean? If you eat Jesus, you would become Jesus!!
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Dr. Pitre told us that he went home shaking, he felt doubts. ‘I dusted off my bible and knelt down and prayed: ‘Lord, show me the way. Help me to know the way. With a lump in his throat he told us: ‘I opened the Scriptures, and the page fell open to John, chapter 6. ‘Amen, amen, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day.’
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Dr. Pitre is now a committed Catholic, and a gifted Scripture scholar. But he told us: ‘At that time, I had not been living my life right. ‘I really was lost. ‘But when those words spoke to me from that page, I knew, with not a doubt in my soul, that the Lord is real, that he is with me, that the Catholic Church is true.
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‘In a single instant I had the answer for that minister. Yes. Jesus gave us the Holy Eucharist. Yes. When we eat the Eucharist, we begin to share in the very life of God, we are joined to Jesus Christ, and he wants us to begin to live like him, with him, and in him.
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There are many today who say that they are Christians, but they do not accept that Christ comes down from heaven to our altars under the appearance of bread; they don’t accept that he literally gives himself to us, to eat. Like that Protestant minister, there are people who SAY they follow the bible, but they really don’t.
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They are just like those many in Jesus’ day, who rejected what he taught. They said: ‘This is a hard saying, that we are to eat your flesh. Who can listen to that?’ So how did Jesus respond? Did he say: ‘I didn’t really mean it? its not really my flesh? don’t walk away? Its just a symbol? No – he did not say that. He said: ‘Amen, amen, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.
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Faith is a gift from God, and if we do not seek it, or we live in sin, we will not have Faith. It will remind us of those very sad words in the Holy Scriptures: it says, ‘from that time on, many turned back and no longer went with him.’ They left Our Lord, over the teaching on the Holy Eucharist.
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In the early centuries of the Church, the belief in the Eucharist was so strong, that some of the Romans accused Catholics of being cannibals. They did not understand that at Holy Communion, we receive the risen, living Christ under the appearance of bread; it is truly Christ Jesus in Body –the living Lord, hidden under the veil of a sacrament. This is a Living Sacrifice that we offer and receive.
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What is the sacrifice? It is the Lamb – remember the Passover Lamb? This was the great sacrifice, but it had two parts. The lamb was slain and its blood offered in the temple. This was the bloody sacrifice. Part I.
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Then the lamb was brought home to the family for the sacrificial meal – the unbloody sacrifice, the Passover meal, Part II.
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For the sacrifice to be completed, you had to eat the lamb. The family must eat the lamb. And so, our Lord offered his life on the cross – the bloody sacrifice – Part I.
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But there remains something more: the whole family must eat the Lamb. And that is what our Catholic family is still doing today. We are all participating in the Great Sacrifice – This is why the Church requires each Catholic to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, in the Easter Season. We must go to Mass every week, yes; to miss Mass is a grave sin. but we are required to Confess our sins and receive Holy Communion at least once a year. It is important for our salvation.
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The Catechism teaches, that by our Baptism, the Lord has made us “other Christs.” St. Cyril says the same thing, that since we are adopted children of God, we are to live as ‘other Christs.’ Other Jesus’s.
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We are part of this great Mystical Body of Christ, and as we try to be holy, do what is right, live just as Jesus lived – we are growing in his likeness. But this likeness is magnified when we can receive him; when we are able, at his Holy Table.
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And this is related to the Doctrine of Deification. By sharing in the very life of Christ, we are assimilated to Christ: we become shares in Divinity. St. Peter says the same, that we become ‘sharers in the Divine Nature.’ And this is what Jesus wants more than anything for us.
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Yesterday we celebrated the great Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Mary leads the way for us. The Blessed Virgin is now clothed with the sun, sharing in the Divine life of Christ.
O Mary, pray for us, that united to Jesus in this life, we will be given the pledge of future glory in the next.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Agatha]

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