After his baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus entered into his public teaching mission using wondrous parables, miraculous healings, and unfathomable compassion, mercy and forgiveness in an effort to convince the people of Israel that God loves them and wants them to live with him in eternity. His most challenging teaching is found in John 6; “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you,” to which many of the disciples responded, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” . . . As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Sadly, I realize that many Catholics “no longer accompany Him.” They no longer pay Him homage nor adore Him, even though He is truly present in every tabernacle and at every Holy Mass. As your Shepherd, I want you to understand why we believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and why we should be in awe of His presence at each and every Mass.
Old Testament scripture prefigures the Eucharist in Ex 12:1-20, 16:2-16, and New Testament scripture gives witness to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist in Lk 24:13-35, Jn 6:22-71(referenced above), and 1 Cor 11:23-29. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, himself, offers His body to the Twelve at the Last Supper, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” . . . And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you (Lk 22:14-20). This is our first glimpse of the words of Consecration.
Before New Testament scripture existed, the Apostles, as verbally instructed by Jesus Christ, offered the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass in small house-churches and said the same words, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” . . . And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” Bishops, as successors of the Apostles, continue following Jesus’ instruction, even, today.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a 4th century Bishop and an early demonstration of the Magisterium unambiguously stated the following referring to the Real Presence, “Since Christ Himself said in reference to the bread: ‘This is My Body,’ who will dare remain hesitant? And since with equal clarity He asserted: ‘This is My Blood,’ who will dare entertain any doubt and say that this is not His Blood?”
Much later in the Church’s history, in response to the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent agreed and promulgated laws regarding the Church’s belief in the Real Presence of Jesu s Christ in the Eucharist saying, “in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ” and “that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation” (Council of Trent, Session XIII, canons 1 & 2).
So, how does the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Jesus Christ?
Our RCIA text, The Way of Christ, teaches, “. . . we use the term transubstantiation, from “trans,” meaning “changed,” and “substance.” Jesus works through the bishop or priest to change the substance of bread and wine into His Body and Blood. This occurs when the bishop or priest says the words of consecration, which are “This is my Body. . . This is the chalice of my Blood” (The Way of Christ, 27).
It is through the Deposit of Faith, comprised of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, that we come to understand the teachings of the Church regarding the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but it is by faith that we come to believe that we are in His presence, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, at each Mass and as we pass or kneel in front of the tabernacle.
I encourage you to view The Veil Removed; a short 7-minute YouTube film that reveals the coming together of heaven and earth at Mass, as seen by saints and mystics, revealed by scripture and in the catechism of the Catholic Church. It is a moving depiction of the consecration and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.