We learn from sacred scripture that Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven. The presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist is real; not just a symbolic representation of his presence, but the true presence of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through His institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, Jesus shares the physical reality of himself with us. The real presence of his body and blood in the Holy Eucharist is true food and true drink that feeds us and nourishes us throughout our lifetime.
That fact that Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist is sometimes hard for us to understand. It requires a good amount of faith on our part to affirm the seemingly impossible and embrace the reality of Our Lord’s promise to feed us with his body and blood. But He does exactly that in the sacrifice offered to God the Father at each Mass.
If you ever had any doubt about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, you need only to consider the miracle experienced by an Italian monk in the small town of Lanciano at the beginning of the 8th century.
The pious monk greatly feared that he was losing his vocation. He had doubts about the real presence of Jesus in the consecrated Eucharist; so much so that he constantly prayed for relief from his doubt. One morning, as he began the celebration of Mass for the people of the town, his sense of disbelief was almost overwhelming. Then, as he prayed the words of consecration, the host turned into real flesh and the wine turned into blood. The miracle of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist was made visible for everyone to see. The monk’s whole body began to shake at the sight of this phenomenon. He fell to is knees and thanked God for dispelling his disbelief by revealing the true food and true drink that is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Despite the fact that this miracle took place over 1,300 years ago, it is still present for all to witness. The host-turned flesh is adored each day as it is displayed in a reliquary that stands beside a glass chalice containing Our Lord’s precious blood.
Over the years the blood has coagulated into five small drops of various shapes and sizes. In 1981 a group of scientists tested the flesh and blood and discovered something astounding. The flesh is myocardium, the heart muscle ostensibly from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And the blood is real blood – type AB positive. Even though this flesh and blood has been exposed to the atmosphere and other biological conditions over all those years, they remain perfectly preserved. Yet lab tests showed no trace of any preservatives.
One extraordinary aspect of the five drops of blood in the chalice is that when you weigh any one of them, it weighs the same as two of them taken together and the same as all five of them together. In fact, no matter which way you combine them, individually or in groups of any number, they always weigh the same. This tells us that, just like in any human DNA cell, Jesus is fully present in each particle of the Eucharist no matter how large or small it is.
The miracle of Lanciano is a physical manifestation of the Eucharistic miracle instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. That same miracle is celebrated by us every day in the sacrifice of the Mass where we receive real food and real nourishment from the real presence of Our Lord.
In the bread and wine turned into the true body and blood of Jesus, the grace of God becomes a living reality that sustains us on our journey in life. In Jesus, God has become both the provider and the provision – both the preparer of the feast and the feast itself. He gives us a special gift – the gift of life with Him forever. He gives us himself – the real food that comforts us and satisfies our hungry souls.
Let the real presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist dispel any doubts you may have and strengthen your faith. Come to the table of the Lord and share in the banquet of the Holy Eucharist. Receive Our Lord and be filled with His real presence – the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ…the true bread that came down from heaven.
Next week I’ll discuss how to prepare ourselves to receive the miracle of Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Until then, God’s peace and blessing to all.