Long Teaching There is a Part One, Part Two, and a Part Two all in here
I heard a phrase this week: “If ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious.” That twere word is from an old-fashioned English usage as in meaning if it were true (’twere), then it would be ( it’d be or ‘tidbe) thus and such. I haven’t heard those phrases used in a while… but some folksy speakers favor them still today. Listening to S.C. nominee Gorsuch speak this week shows that the homespun terminology is still much in circulation.
But how I heard the ’twere phrase was not in a good light. It was used by some Christian anti-Catholic person, one who unfortunately, was speaking publicly in dead-set opposition to a Living Jesus with us in the Blessed Sacrament. They said that the Eucharist couldn’t be real because the amazement and convincing factor wasn’t there, in their view. So, in the folksy, olde-fashioned sentence, they said “if ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious,” meaning that they were trying to debunk the Eucharist*, saying “it,*” was not really Christ Jesus, in their demanding that, if “it*” were true, some special effects would be seen and felt to support the claim of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in our Catholic belief and practice.
Cut to chase, the Eucharistic Jesus isn’t exciting enough for them to be real. “It” seems too ordinary to them.
What a short-sighted point of view this seems to be. The “it” actually is a Person: Jesus. There view does slight the Lord in some certain way.
I am reminded of the account in Mark 6 when people also dismissed Jesus by saying that “they knew” how he was only (merely) a carpenter, just an ordinary relative from Nazareth, son of Joseph. They “knew” it. They made noise that Jesus could NOT be anything more (and surely not Messiah). We know now how very wrong they were in belittling Jesus.
Same thing with belittling Him as Sacrament and Bread of Life among us today. That’s a big mistake to make. It leaves out a major, personal experience of Christ from their lives. Yet we Catholics will need to be the witness to His Real Presence, so that all Christians can be led to Him, the Bread of Life, for their full nourishment.
To those statements above of expecting a sign, or refusing to believe, I thought: ‘Like what special effects are they looking for to have prove to themselves the Eucharist is really Jesus?! A tingling sensation? A taste of true blood? A stupendous, instantaneous, miraculous healing to the communicant?’ What ‘special effects’ were they seeking of Christ or of the Church’s relationship to Jesus as Eucharistic Lord for our pilgrimage Home? In their current faith practice, is it all a big feelings kind-of-experience they demand to have called their Christianity? There is fault in that orientation, if so.
There are clear descriptions in the Bible (as proof) for the Real Presence, too, if they are searching. I wondered: How more clear in The Word can it be that John the Baptist or John the Apostle call Jesus the Lamb of God, or that Jesus calls Himself as “the Bread of Life” or the “Living Bread of Heaven,” as for us to “take and eat?!” of Him? ! (John 6, Luke 22) Or, that He offered Himself purposefully on the exact Jewish Passover for sacrifice (John 13, Matt. 26), which was unnecessarily dramatic of Jesus if twere only a symbolic gesture He was making. Yet, what if the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, is Real Presence Blood to save us from death in sin? Hebrews 9:11-28 has something to say about that, of this Church today in a living practice of Christ’ offering, as while we seek His Glory to come. (Read it.)
Experientially, at each Mass, I get a sense of the blood on the doorpost of our hearts being applied onto us and into us, who want to be saved from death and our sins. This, of course, is an update to the exodus story, as we live under the Exodus march now of Jesus. As the author of Hebrews writes to the believers to experience in their present-time: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14)
Oh my! The anti-Catholic said “if ’twere true”– scoffing as he said it… but hallelujah, “TIS TRUE. JESUS IS AMONG US IN HIS BODY AND BLOOD in the work of salvation, and He is building us up to serve Him for His kingdom! The “I AM with you always” so promised Jesus at His Ascension (Mt. 28:16-20). Jesus IS Sacrament and Paschal Mystery for us now, so that the great I AM has been and is now and will be ministering to us of His feast of salvation.
As for a convincing proof of Himself as Bread, back in Jesus’ public ministry in Israel, do your remember the big deal Jesus made of it about Himself. In John 6, it says how even many disciples and the apostles did not get it, of what Jesus did after the Miracle of the Loaves. Due to that, Our Lord said: “You had your fill of the miracle loaves, but do you still not believe?” The people had missed the sign (sacrament) unveiling of Jesus. So, even with much of an amazing thing occur on the hill with the multitudes with all them getting fed from practically nothing at hand, they still didn’t believe. Why not? Because it was not to be any special effects or spectacle that would win hearts. Jesus knew it was all about faith and its desire to catch on and believe. In that John 6 dialogue text, Jesus asked His apostles, ‘as many have left, over this hard teaching, do you also want to leave?’ Peter spoke for the Twelve that they were staying; faith helped them see the Living God before them in Jesus–and in His signs. ‘You offer Everlasting Life, Master!,’ says Peter, indicating that he and the band of apostles were remaining with The Lord.
So, it is true that some sincere disciples for Jesus today can get it wrong, at first, about Jesus as the Sign of God, the Sacrament for a living encounter in the Divine. But we wish for them to “get it.” (Only by Grace did we, too.)
These denials of fundamentalists and charismatic Protestants and other non-Catholics about the truth of the Eucharistic Christ today are familiar. Many do say something like the man did (If t’were true, tid’be most obvious); but they are exercising their prideful demands a bit too far. Faith seeks understanding, and we hope they will arrive there to know Jesus as Sacrament.
There’s hope people will come to The Eucharist. The Holy Spirit will be looking to draw them in to glorifying God by such an embrace of Jesus Real Presence.
In seeking such a demanding physical proof of God (sign, on their terms), maybe by faith they can really become surprised, because God IS offering a physical manifestation of His works in the 7 Sacraments. It’s just not of the double-wow factor. Jesus comes meek and humble among us. That’s so vital a lesson to see in the Gospel story. Jesus says: “Come to Me… for I Am meek and gentle of heart… I will help your soul find its rest.” That is the same Lord of the Gospels Who is Sacrament today. We meet Him on those humble terms. We kneel often in His Sign Presence to us, as in Mass or Reconciliation or in a Matrimonial union or Holy Orders consecration. It’s a humble thing to experience God in Christ in Sacrament..
Part Two. ‘TIS THE LAMB LEADING US!
Our Lord And Savior Jesus presented Himself humbly before the Father. See our Mediator kneeling in the Garden of Gethsename in our illustration on the page.
He kneels in a humble offering to God, doing so in the time directly which had followed the First Mass, the Last Supper. Only in our own exercise of humility will we take note of God come to us in all humility.
Jesus Himself in His public ministry (as told in the gospels) was not touring around like a rock-star of today. He did not have elaborate clothes, house musicians, magnetic appeal, and an oversized, look-at-Me personality. As some Nazarenes commented of Him: ‘You’re just a poor carpenter’s son, and a lone carpenter yourself now and widows son (with Joseph gone), and merely a relative of people we know, a man of no privilege (Mark 6). How at all could you, Jesus, be God (?), the Messiah?’ they scoffed.
This denial of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh was a regular thing as Our Lord was in ministry, and that of some of the Jews rejecting Him when He came is clearly told in the New Testament.
Later, the rejection of Jesus as God in the flesh was the break of the first heretics of Christianity. Interestingly, there is a tie-in to the same rejection of Jesus as Eucharist. This has also been going on from early on in Christianity, though very much more in recent decades and centuries. Many non-Catholic Christians insist on living apart from the Sacraments of the Church of the 2000-year-old Church begun by Jesus. Why such resistance??
Refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Sacrifice and Sacrament in the Eucharist has been going around for centuries, even so in the time of Christ ministry itself (e.g. “How can He give us His flesh to eat?!” –John 6) ‘and many no longer followed Him (after His Bread of Life teaching).’
The connection of God coming as human and as flesh/sacrament are much related– The Word is Flesh; The Word is also Eucharist. He is the same Word, expressed as flesh. Think of the many times in bible stories when people would not acknowledge Jesus as God among them, because He was of the flesh. They couldn’t imagine God as flesh, therefore, they would not believe. The Lord in flesh was an automatic disqualifier for them. Even the crucifixion of Jesus was about some Jewish leaders asking for the death sentence for a man claiming to be God among them as a man. But, oh how wrong those Sanhedrin were!
Jesus said that He was giving His flesh for the life of the world, and that His Body offered was becoming Eucharist for the faithful: God was extending His visit as flesh and His Presence to us via Sacrament. The God Who became small as an embryo once was even becoming present as hosts and parts of bread transubstantiated. Amazing this Lord of Heaven is!
It is important, then, to see how the objection of Jesus as God/man is tied together with the objection to Him as the Eucharistic Sacrifice today. They are closely related. As a person like this twere person goes so vehemently against Jesus as Bread of Life Sacrament, I suppose that they would have also missed Jesus as the Man of Galilee too. Jesus just wasn’t spectacular or obvious enough for some people, I suppose.
The recognition of the mystery of God among us is by faith, and that recognition is a Gift. This is so true a point. At some time in our lives we Christians all need to become like Thomas the apostle, who was missing from the assembly, and to come in and see what the others had said was true. Thomas examines “the Body and Blood Jesus– even the nailmarks–and gets that it is all indeed true, so to exclaim “My Lord and My God.” Believers outside of the Eucharist need to come in to those believers with the Eucharist and to recognize Jesus as the Eucharist, so to say “My Lord and My God” to the Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus said something very important to Thomas upon the doubting apostles’ coming back into the fold: “Blessed are those who have not seen (nailmarks like you have here), yet who will still believe.”
Because it is all by faith that we see. No tingling or sensations, no fireworks, no overwhelming feelings– just Jesus recognition.
The Jesus received in Mass from the faithful is related to same Man of Galilee, the man so often spurned, because of denials by so many that He was God in the flesh with them. Read the Bible accounts. They are many detailing the above rejection. When the Lord Jesus was in public ministry, numbers of people also demanded certain signs or amazing proofs from Him, in that same special effects mode, but Jesus did not serve them in that flashy way. In fact, Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus doing many works among them in humble ways, almost as in secret. Faith not flash was the way into intimacy with Christ. The Gospels all communicate how Jesus was indeed already their Sign of Signs right in their midst. He was Sacrament; He was sign– but not to the demand of people for a spectacular sign. He came as one of us, not to wow but to gently meet us and heal us and save us. He once concluded, “This is a people making demands but no more sign shall be given them but for the sign of Jonah ( referring to His Rising from the dead).”. That would be His major sign, but it would only be manifest to people who were in faith with Him.
Jesus comes to us, maybe more humbly in surprise to us than we could ever expect.
Yet He is here. Humankind, in our folly, make our demands on God, rather than roll out the red carpet and ask however might receive Him in. It is all due to our want to deny our sin and our need for help and transformation, and of our resistance to let it happen on GOD’ S terms, not our own. It’s a problem of pride. Believers who say they belong to Christ have such problems sometimes in pride, though given by word of promise to Christ the Lord. Yet they fully don’t know Him yet. They also are prone to errors. Just read the epistles of the New Testament from James through Jude, and you hear the apostles trying to keep the Church one and true and moving to deeper conversion and convictions, rather they might lose their faith. (John’s letters are particularly strong.)
Yet Jesus IS a challenge to us. Anyone who says He is peachy and easy and just a buddy Savior has much more to know of Him. When Jesus came, He knew that He would experience rejection or refusal from people to Who His True Identity. John’s Gospel leads off with the real challenge before us: “The Word became flesh… and to as many as received Him, to them He gave right to be becoming as children of God.”
Even while getting rejected as the Son of God meekly ‘sneaking’ (past our prideful eyes) into our world and history, Jesus continued to affirm His identity as The I AM. He was God in human existence with us, and the God of eternity. He said basic things (as recorded further in John’s Gospel) such as “he(she) who believes in Me (as such) has eternal life.”. “I AM the Bread of Life… anyone who eats of Me, this bread, has life eternal, and anyone who does not, does not have eternal life.” Jesus says this. The gospel records it.
Ah, the Irish like this word, ‘Tis! And with the Real Presence, we Catholics can say of its truth: ‘Tis!!
It also says clearly in John than many people left Jesus, because of not accepting who He was or what He said, as in looking for a different Messiah. In His teaching on the Eucharist, particularly, they left Him. (See John 6.) These were those ’twere true, then followers. They stopped following the Real Jesus due to stipulations, one might say. Could they have been saying; “Jesus, you are too much of the ordinary and sublime to actually be the Divine One you claim to be.’
Oh how wrong they were then. And now.
Part 3. Our Catholic testimony. People undeserving but who have been blessed to see.
What the non-Catholics (who kid us about wafer worship) just don’t know! Jesus is Eucharist for His people on the journey home to Him. This is so dear to us who are Catholics. It also startles us about Jesus. Our God Who becomes small, whether as baby and man, or as Eucharist host– He does risk being missed or unnoticed or even disrespected or rejected.
By grace, we in the Catholic Church (and other Real Presence believers) have recognized Him, like those who did when on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24). Praise be Jesus for His revelation to His people, and for His Gift to the Church. The hidden part of the Emmaus story is of persons who had walked along as if without Jesus, and even heard His words, still had not caught on Who He was until the breaking of the bread. Then, they knew Him.
We Catholics claim and believe God is with us, and even in ordinary-style signs and sacraments. The Lord is right here among us, yet He still can be missed, as by those who will not see. He is Sacrament to continue a physical reality with His Church, yet people just will not abide with Him in this Way. I think of many ex- Catholics who have voted so with their departure from Mass-going. They had been right near Jesus, even to receive Him in as gift, but have departed away from this intimacy with Jesus to prefer some other place or experience. Sad.
Some of the younger generations are going off preferring a more dynamic, entertaining style of Jesus. Even some of the older folks, too. Yet the Word says “He came meekly.” Notice it in Him as the babe in Bethlehem (Mt. 2). Or the man of Galilee walking up to John the Baptizer (Mt. 11). Or the man preaching on the hillsides (blessed are the meek–Mt. 5). Or the one describing Himself: “I AM meek and humble of heart. Come to me, and rest. (Mt. 11:29).” This One Person also proclaims I AM Food in John 6, to “eat and drink of Me,” as does He say in the Last Supper Gospels.
‘Twere true? It really is true that the Humble Jesus, as in Mystery among us as Eucharist, is missed, or even dis-missed by people today. Yet He is Real-ly there. Those who seek, find– says Jesus. May they find Him as Eucharist among us.
How I love the EWTN tv show that has all the testimonials of people of other religions or denominations who have come to recognize Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread. The show is called “Journey Home.” Other live call-in radio shows on EWTN’s network feature many more such testimonies. Catholic Answers Live is full of Eucharistic Jesus confessors. ‘Tis True, they say.
Of my hurts as a priest is to know of former Catholics or former practicing Catholics who are not with us in Sacred Liturgy now. I dearly pray for them to Come Home.
‘Twere is probably a poor relative of ’twas, as in “once before, He was my Eucharist, but not now.” As in someone saying: “I don’t want Him to be. I want something more amazing or appealing.” Would they demand it to not be so, of this Eucharist not to be Him?
As the destiny of the believer is to gather around the Throne in praise of the Lamb, in the Liturgy of Heaven, going to Mass is a getting ready and acquainted with the Lord as He is worshipped forever. The Holy Mass is our connection even now to Heaven’s liturgy, as they go on simultaneously. Scott Hahn’s book “The Lamb’s Supper” is a great read for someone to see the message of the Book of Revelation as of a communion of the Church triumphant in Heaven, united to believers of the Church Militant (fighting the good fight soulfully on earth’s pilgrimage) and the Church Suffering. All are united into the Sacrifice of the Lamb, and we are made worthy only in the Lamb’s Offering. Again, this is all about the meaning and mystery of Holy Mass.
As John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus is God in the flesh… and then Jesus says “my flesh is real food, eat it in remembrance of Me… this is My Body…My Blood for you.” In each Mass, we acknowledge this Truth. ‘Tis True. Blessed is the Lamb Who was slain, who reigns now. This is the celebration of Heaven, of and in and by The Lamb Jesus.
And on earth we pray in every Mass: “Lamb of God… have mercy on us… grant us peace.”
Mary, our model believer, embraces the Word made flesh among us. At the start to finish.
‘Twere. ‘Tis. Two shall be one, Bride to BrideGroom.
Twain is another old English language word with a tw start. It’s used in phrases like “never the twain shall meet” but also in wedded lines like “twain thee, one love now.”
Which shall it be of the Eucharistic Lord Jesus: Never the twain shall meet (me and Jesus as Bread of Life)–or– twain us, one Communion and bond, Lord?
I think I will sign off on that. (I’d tweet off, but this is a blog! If it ’twere a tweet, then this message would have been over in the first sentence! )
Photo: San Juan Cathedral in the week of Epiphany. I con-celebrated some Masses here. In Spanish.