A few weeks ago I heard a conversation between two of my heroes, Dr William Lane Craig and Bishop Robert Barron, livestreamed from the Bishop’s Facebook page. They spoke on a range of topics from engaging an increasingly secularist culture, to the key issues young people have with the faith – most of which are merely resilient misconceptions, such as the incompatibility of science and faith, or poor scriptural interpretation. I thought it was noteworthy that Craig, an Evangelical, and Barron, a Catholic, were sitting side-by-side and smiling ear to ear representing the perpetual call to all Christians to be evangelisers. Furthermore, although this was in no way a Catholic/Protestant debate, there were moments of very clear dialogue of one examining the perspective of the other. At one point, Barron asked Craig “what, if anything, is there in Catholicism that especially beguiles you or attracts you…? and what in Catholicism most puzzles you and concerns you?”
Craig responded by saying, “the most attractive thing would be the ancient history of the Church, and this long, great tradition which extends all the way back to the Greek apologists and the Church Fathers… but there are so many things that Roman Catholics believe that I just don’t believe, and I couldn’t become a Catholic even if I wanted to because I just don’t believe those things: I don’t believe that Mary was immaculately conceived [or] assumed into heaven…” Alongside Mary, a known point of difference between Catholics and Protestants is the Eucharist. Although Craig did not comment on the Eucharist in his conversation with Bishop Barron, he has written on the subject on his website Reasonable Faith. He says, “The Lord’s Supper is not a means of grace. It is an ordinance that we participate in on a regular basis in order to remember the Lord’s sacrifice, to examine ourselves, and to remember what he has done on our behalf,” and repeats elsewhere in the article, “this is simply an ordinance. It is not a sacrament. It is not a means of grace.”
Over the years, I have gained many Protestant friends; fervent, zealous, conscientious young (and not-so-young) men and women who are in love with Jesus, well-versed in the Scriptures, interested in theology and philosophy and science and history and culture – authentic people who I dearly love and draw inspiration from. It is a personal priority of mine to connect in with other Christian communities in so far as my schedule allows. Obviously, I cannot go to a Protestant service in lieu of Sunday Mass. Neither will I partake of a Protestant communion meal. “Why not?” some have asked, “Isn’t it all the same?” Truly, it is not. For many Christian’s, the communion of which they partake is a symbol and a remembrance of the Last Supper and Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary. However, Christianity from the beginning has held the Eucharist as Jesus himself, really and truly present on the altar, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; a Sacrament instituted and given to us by the Lord himself. It is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” (LG no.11 cf. CCC1324). The Christian spirituality flows from the Eucharist the way light flows from the sun, and all our activity is properly directed back to this source who is the Lord himself.
The consensus among the Church Fathers is beautifully complimented by the adoring words of the Saints: “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist,” says Saint John Vianney, for “if God had something more precious, he would have given it to us.” Saint Augustine muses on the fact that “Christ held himself in his hands when he gave his Body to his disciples…” Saint Francis of Assisi laments not being able to see the Lord with his own eyes in this world, “except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.” Saint Ambrose encourages us, “Take daily what is to profit you daily. Live in such a way that you may deserve to receive it daily.” And on and on goes the unanimous saintly chorus calling us to love our Lord’s most supreme gift – his very self, that we may have life.
(A section of the crowd participating in the Corpus Christi procession through the Brisbane CBD 2016, retrieved from the Catholic Leader)
It is remarkable to think that in Baptism, we have all been incorporated into the Body of Christ. Every person, including all those who have gone before us, every saint in heaven and every soul on its way, is a member in Christs Body – and, it is this very same Body that we adore and receive in the Sacrament of Eucharist. To love the Eucharist is to love Jesus, his Church, the faithful departed, the elderly, the young… everyone, in Jesus, offered to the Father.
Why not spend 30 minutes in silent adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament before you next go to Mass? Let us ponder this incredible mystery.