The Eucharist is a scandal to many, not because of the doctrine, but because of our lives.
No not sandals, scandals and some messy ones at that, because you see, there are many scandals in the Faith. I might be scandalized for example, at how many in public office profess Jesus and yet act decidedly contrary to the Son of God. I might be scandalized at how many work for the Church and yet seem to make decisions on a daily basis that jeopardize Her mission (if this were possible). Then again, you might be scandalized that a person of Faith like me, has actually written the above in a public forum, essentially naming the obvious; yeah, sorry about that. But what we need to understand is that scandal is always tied to witness even when it isn’t immediately obvious.
Take for example the doctrines of the Church, the truths that lives are built upon.
A church without doctrines is a church that is either unable or unwilling to tell the truth.
And that is what doctrines are by the way. Doctrines are truths. So a church without doctrines is a church that is either unable or unwilling to tell the truth. And a church that does have doctrine, is one that is willing and able to speak the truth even when things can get messy.
So do you want some messy truths?
We Catholics have many, but few seem to get as much disdain as those truths surrounding the Eucharist.
And here is the surprise. The world, including our brothers and sisters in various Christian communities, don’t actually have a hard time believing that Jesus could be present among us, even at the Eucharistic table. What they do have a hard time with, what scandalizes them, is not our claim that Jesus is there but our claim that the bread is no longer there; even when they can see it; even when we claim to taste it. Just think of the difficulty here.
Thomas needed proof that Jesus was alive because the evidence spoken to the contrary (John 20). Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, needed proof of Elizabeth’s pregnancy in the flesh because the word of an angel seemed contrary to the evidence he had (Luke 1). On and on in the Scriptures, the personalities we meet have a terribly, difficult time believing what is told them when the message is contrary to the evidence they already have.
Yes, Jesus told us that they are blessed who believe without seeing (John 20:29), but we have to admit that this is a stumbling block for many, not because there is a boulder in their way, but a piece of bread.
Now here is where witness comes in, because the real impediment to another considering the messy truths of the Eucharist, that what looks like bread during the Mass is actually not, is that you and I claim to have ingested God. Makes sense to me.
If you tell me that you have swallowed a nuclear reactor then I want to see you either ‘hulk out’ or at the very least glow. And if you tell me that you have somehow ingested God, the maker of heaven and earth, conqueror of the rulers of this world, then I want to see you change the world.
Begin with your local community. Begin with your marriage or your family, it doesn’t matter. But if God is in you, what on earth couldn’t change for the better; and who on earth could stop that kind of awesome power?
Do you see the scandal here?
Millions upon millions of Catholics receive the Eucharist, and most are no closer to revealing God to others than the day before. And because there is no evidence that God is in them, that too becomes a counter sign; proof that the bread really is just what their eyes tell them it is.
Again, the scandal isn’t that we claim Jesus is present; it is that we claim He is in us and the bread is not. It is when we claim to have the Son of God in us even as we talk, walk and live like sons of the evil one (John 8:42-47).
Like I said, it’s all very messy. In fact it is a scandal, but it’s still true. Our poor witness gives others reasons not to believe, not just in us, but in the greatest truth ever told. And our fellow Catholics in public office, well…yeah, you already know how I feel about that.