Stanley asked:

What can I say to an agnostic friend of mine who accuses Catholics of being cannibals because they must eat Jesus' flesh and drink his blood to live?

Mike Hayes replied:

We talk a lot about literalism here on the podcast. It's not a literal, taking Jesus' left leg and gnawing on it. It's a mystical body of Christ ... Jesus wanted to say 'I'm always going to be with you.' And he knew that the apostles needed some kind of physical thing to do in order to remember that Jesus is always with us ... I really think Jesus was a genius and he said 'Everybody has to eat. Can I unite with their very food and their very drink to remind them that I'm going to be with them, and maybe they should do it once a week?"

Fr. Dave Dwyer replied:

It certainly builds on the Jewish tradition that their laws have a lot to do with their basic human functions. And we as sacramental Catholics want to imbue our very days' activities with our faith so that it's not just faith happens on Sunday. All the things that we do. So with Jewish people even today they have laws about certain foods that they can and can not eat precisely for that reason that even the most mundane of human tasks we're thinking of our faith and we're thinking of God.

So Jesus is kind of uniting this basic human activity ... We believe that it's truly ... Christ is truly present, and that he does say particularly in John chapter 6 several times, says it a lot of times so we get it 'you eat my flesh and drink my blood.' And so we believe that Christ is really present ... Transsubstantiation changes the essence of what it is, not those measurable or perceivable things. So to our eyes and our tongue it's still a host ... It is still seeming like that and tasting like that, and yet what it really is inside is truly Jesus present in there."

Mike Hayes added:

I think also the idea of Jesus being the nourishment for us. We are going to continue to be nourished by the eucharist. That's a very intimate thing. You need this for your life ... This is going to remind you that God is literally present within you."

Mark's take:

I don't know where I heard this but I credit the original author of these comments. Another way to approach this issue is to bring up what about people who have blood transfusions? What about babies who nurse from their mother in and out of the womb? These are instances where someone is sustaining their life or feeding off of another. Remember a human cannibal eats from another dead human body. We are not eating from a dead body. Now we do believe the eucharist is the real body and blood and that is what we consume. Christ commands us to do this. Your issue is with Christ, not me.

Source material:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1381 states: “That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas, ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.’ For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 (‘This is my body which is given for you.’), St. Cyril says: ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.’”


© 2013 Busted Halo®

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Show air date: April 26, 2007

Name of show: #102

Guest comments by: Mike Hayes & Father Dave Dwyer

Question appeared in show: 3:59

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