Deacon Whalen — Why we believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist


This article centers on the one thing above all else that relates to our Salvation: The Eucharist, the consecrated bread and wine that becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian Life! (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1324)

It is one of seven Sacraments, all of which are sources of God’s Grace.

If the Sacraments, were all mountains, the Eucharist would be the highest by far, as it IS the Body and Blood of Jesus.

It begins with the Passover described in the Book of Exodus. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, and so God told Moses he would send plagues upon the Egyptians so that Pharaoh would let the Israelites go.

It wasn’t until the 10th plague that the Pharaoh finally let the Israelites leave.

Prior to God sending that 10th plague, he told Moses to have each Israelite family slaughter an unblemished lamb, and eat it, along with unleavened bread (because they would have to leave in a hurry and no time for bread to “rise”).

The Israelites then were to paint their doorposts with the blood of the lamb.

During the night, the Angel of Death would come and kill the firstborn in each household, man and animal, but will “pass over” those households whose door posts were painted with the blood of the lamb.

Also, God told Moses to tell the Israelites to celebrate this Passover Meal once a year so the people will never forget what God did for them.

There is a new Passover also, and that is when the Lamb of God — referred to by John the Baptist — who suffered and died on the cross and then rose on the third day so that mankind would be freed from the slavery of sin.

And, just as the original Passover included a meal — a lamb and unleavened bread — so, too, did the New Passover: Jesus, the Lamb of God, and unleavened bread.

It was the Last Supper at which Jesus took the bread, broke it, gave thanks, and said, “Take and eat, for this is my Body.”

And then, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to his apostles saying, “Drink from it all of you, for this is the Blood of the New Covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Central themes

•The first Passover freed the Israelites from physical slavery, and the New Passover freed mankind from slavery to sin.

God ordered in both cases to “do this in remembrance of me,” so that mankind would never forget what God had done for them.

The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.”

Jesus gave thanks at the Last Supper when he blessed the bread and the wine.

The name Eucharist became a common name for the consecrated bread and wine by the Church leaders during Mass late in the first century A.D.

•All four Gospels have episodes of Jesus feeding five thousand people. And each time he blesses the five loaves and two fish to feed all the people, and he “gives thanks,” which points this miracle to the Eucharist.

Each time this occurred, it was at Passover time, and it happened one year before the New Passover.

•John 6 — Jesus says, “I am the bread which came down from Heaven.”

Jesus compares himself to the manna that God made fall from the sky to feed the hungry Israelites in the desert during their 40-year sojourn.

Jesus several times refers to the many graces one receives from eating his flesh, as he is “the living bread come down from Heaven,” and that we will live forever if we eat his flesh and drink his blood.

The Jews then disputed what he said, so Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

That means we don’t receive that special grace unless we receive Jesus in the Eucharist: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food, indeed, and my blood is drink, indeed.”

•The “Our Father” strongly points to our need for the Eucharist in the words, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

The word “daily” appears nowhere else in the New Testament. The word in Greek is “epilousios” and has several meanings, the first being to meet our daily needs, but it also means “super-essential” which refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the “medicine of immortality,” without which we have no life within us.

But the most evident meaning is the Day of the Lord, the Feast of the Kingdom anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the Kingdom to come, Heaven.

•Emmaus — The day Jesus rose from the dead, he met two men walking to Emmaus (Luke: 24) who were aware of what happened to Jesus and that his body was missing.

So, Jesus walked with them and explained the Scriptures, but they did not recognize Jesus.

Nonetheless, they invited him to stay with them, and at dinner Jesus disappeared right after they recognized him in the “breaking of the bread.”

Thus, another reference to the Eucharistic meal.

•St. Paul, in Chapter 11 of his First Letter to the Corinthians, not only repeats Jesus’s words at the Last Supper but also adds, “Anyone who eats and drinks of the Lord’s Body and Blood unworthily brings condemnation upon himself.”

In other words, Confession is required if one has committed serious sin before receiving the Eucharist.

Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist is manifested by his words prior to his ascension to Heaven in Matthew 28:20: “I will be with you always until the end of the age.”

•Eucharistic miracles — Many miracles have occurred where the consecrated bread and/or wine have bled, and some have been tested showing it turned into fresh human flesh or blood — the most profound being the Miracle of Lanciano, Italy, in the 1300s, which was scientifically tested in 1970 and 1980.


Deacon Whalen, a member of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City, is a retired deacon of the Jefferson City diocese.