Roman Catholicism teaches that “Remembering the work of redemption is continually accomplished in the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice that priests are to celebrate frequently”. This teaching is often hidden behind a confusing dichotomy between ‘literalism’ v ‘symbolism’, but this is not the purpose of this article. Christ’s sacrifice should be often remembered but it can be neither repeated, nor perpetuated upon Roman Catholics’ altars – “the sacrifice of the Mass”.
“Declared present on the altar through the miracle of transubstantiation (which only the Catholic priest can perform) is the “true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is really and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine in order to offer Himself in the sacrifice of the Mass and to be received as spiritual food in Holy Communion.”1
This article examines such claims and many other suggestions, in the light of the clear biblical teaching on remembering the finished work on Calvary in the breaking of bread (the Lord’s Table). In fact, in John 19:30, the Lord said: “It is finished”, and as a songwriter rightly says: “The wrath of God was satisfied”! To repeat or to perpetuate the sacrifice of Christ, His pre-crucifixion must be reconstituted. In Roman Catholicism, this stunning feat is allegedly accomplished through the ‘miracle’ of transubstantiation: changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Therefore, “the priest is indispensable, since he alone by his powers can change the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ”.
Reality or Heresy?
The distinctive mark of the Catholic Eucharist is the alleged power of the priests to, upon Catholic altars, recreate the literal body of Christ and then to offer Him to God in the “sacrifice of the Mass” in which Jesus Christ is immolated and Christ perpetuates, in an unbloody manner, the sacrifice offered on the cross. As the late Dave Hunt put it, “This is either the most vital and miraculous reality or the most diabolical fraud- there is no middle ground”.
● The Bread
Yes, in John 6:48-56 the Lord taught that: “I am that bread of life […] He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in Me and I in Him”. The bread here has nothing to do with the Catholic Eucharist, as clearly seen in verse 49. In this verse, the Lord compares Himself (Bread from Heaven) with the manna in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:3, we read: “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread [natural] alone; but man lives by every word [made flesh (John 1:14) or Bread from Heaven] that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord”. “Eat my flesh” needs to be understood in the context of the “Word became flesh” as stated in John 1:14. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
● The Blood
The blood of Christ was shed once for all, and that was never to be repeated. We read in Hebrews 9:24- 28a :
“ For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”
And in Leviticus 17:11,
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood [not the wine!] that makes atonement for the soul.”
Just like His flesh (Heavenly Bread) is His life given for the redemption of the world, the blood of Jesus Christ is the life of God given to redeem humankind - the body is broken to allow the blood to flow! We are not cannibals and the wine we partake at the Lord’s Table is a representation of the blood that was shed on the cross- not the actual blood, nor is the bread of which we partake the actual body of Christ. The Lord’s Table is an institution, a remembrance of the reality of what the Lord did for us on the cross. The Church has only two institutions – these are ‘musts’ for every believer in Jesus Christ- Baptism and the Lord’s Table. However, the Catholic Church celebrates its own seven sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance and Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony). Fr. Mike Schmitz inviting people “to believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ because Jesus said it himself2” is unbiblical and must simply be rejected. He also stated: “The Bible contains adult themes that may not be suitable for children- parental discretion is advised”. This statement is also disputable as children are also to read the Bible for themselves prayerfully because “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
2 Peter 1:16a
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ […]”, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:11-14).
“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30).
The Greek word for “it is finished” is teleo or tetelestai (perfect tense) meaning: to bring to a close, to finish, to end, passed, or finished as “paid in full!”. Therefore, Christ’s sacrifice was never to be repeated, but only remembered as commanded in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26, which says: “And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
2 The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz) – Day 100: This Is My Body (2023)