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Karen wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have been talking with a Protestant friend of mine about the Catholic faith. She had some questions on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that I didn't know how to respond to.

She believes that John 6 (the Bread of Life discourse) is just a parable. She leads Bible studies and is now going to seminary. To me, it is obvious that Jesus is not talking in a metaphor.

  • Is there anything I can say to her, to help her see what we believe, as Catholics?

She also thinks that the Catholic Church is always changing things, her examples were about:

  • eating meat on Fridays and
  • the selling of indulgences.

I tried to explain that there was a difference between Catholic doctrine and dogma which is unchangeable or infallible; and Catholic disciplines that are changeable.

  • So now she wants to know how one can prove that Catholic doctrines have never changed?
  • Can you help?

Karen

  { How can I explain John 6 on the Eucharist and prove that Catholic doctrines have never changed? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Karen —

Thanks for the question.

You said:
I have been talking with a Protestant friend of mine about the Catholic faith. She had some questions on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that I didn't know how to respond to.

She believes that John 6 (the Bread of Life discourse) is just a parable. She leads Bible studies and is now going to seminary. To me, it is obvious that Jesus is not talking in a metaphor.

  • Is there anything I can say to her, to help her see what we believe, as Catholics?

I would first recommend sharing with her some Scripture resources I have gathered at:

http://www.askacatholic.com/ScripturePassages

A direct link to the Eucharist section can be found here.

Share with her these postings as well. See what Justin Martyr said in 155 A.D. in the following posting:


Also in a Catholic Answers forum posting, I saw this question:

Questioner (Bill) asked:

I have been trying to make sense of John 6 lately, and honestly, a metaphorical interpretation seems best. But I do not think that necessarily means the
Real Presence is not true.

Someone with the handle Static replied:

Bill,

What you ask is a difficult task. For us to just camp out in John 6 trying to clarify Jesus teachings without using the rest of the Scriptures is like you asking us why we believe baptism is more than a symbol from just staying in John 3.

I understand that if we do go outside of the Scriptures you asked for, it would become a very lengthy dialogue which maybe you want to try and stay away from, don't really know.

I would like to touch on some points to be made out of that chapter without getting long winded ... hopefully.

In mentioning verses 51-56:

Let's take at look at these verses mentioned in another way. Just say Jesus was speaking metaphorically when He said, "eat my flesh and drink my blood" He would of been a poor teacher.

  • Why?

Symbolically speaking of eating flesh and drinking blood in Scripture, means to persecute, do violence to, assault or to murder. Here are a few examples:
Isaiah 9:18-20, Micah 3:3.

In Revelation 17:6,16 it states, "I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus," and "The ten horns that you saw and the beast will hate the harlot; they will leave her desolate and naked; they will eat her flesh and consume her with fire."

Now, if Jesus was speaking metaphorically, His listeners would of understood Him as saying, “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you do violence to me and assault me, you do not have life within you. Whoever persecutes me and kills me I will raise him up on the last day.” As you can clearly see, this makes no sense of the text whatsoever.

As far as the manna versus Jesus:

Jesus said He is the True Bread from Heaven. Recall the manna, did it not come down from Heaven. Now, according to Hebrews 8:5, 10:1 and Colossians 2:17 — quoting Colossians, the shorter of the three, these are shadows of things to come: the reality belongs to Christ. So, according to these verses, any Old Testament figure (type) was just a shadow of the fulfillment we have in the New Testament, which points to Christ. Now, saying that, if the manna came down from Heaven and in the New Testament, the bread that we break is just that, bread, then that would make Jesus inferior to the Old Testament type.

  • Can this be, knowing that Jesus supercedes all Old Testament types?
  • This would leave us with a big problem since Jesus is the reality that fulfills all Old Testament types, would it not?

Jesus being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, should of held up a piece of lamb at the Last Supper, not a piece of bread.

May God Bless, Static (1 Timothy 1:15)


You said:
She also thinks that the Catholic Church is always changing things, her examples were about:

  • eating meat on Fridays and
  • the selling of indulgences.

I tried to explain that there was a difference between Catholic doctrine and dogma which is unchangeable or infallible; and Catholic disciplines that are changeable.

You are right on the nose:

  • Can practices, disciplines and customs change? Yes, and they do.
  • Can doctrines or dogmas changes? No, they can't; they can be clarified for the good of the faithful, but not changed.

If she doesn't understand the differences between (practices, disciplines, customs), (doctrines, and dogmas) she will always be confused.

You said:
So now she wants to know how one can prove that Catholic doctrines have never changed?

One can know, by trusting the Holy Spirit, who descended on the first Apostles on Pentecost Sunday. The Catholic bishops of the Church were the very first Apostles and are their successors today. Historically, less then 75 years after Our Lord's Ascension into Heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, St. Ignatius of Antioch is quoted in 107 A.D. as saying:

"See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.

Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid."

Let's also remember that most, if not all Christians, believe that the Holy Spirit is God.  As such, because God can neither deceive, nor be deceived, we can trust the Church He founded and sent His Holy Spirit to guide the Popes of the Church; a choice Jesus made. (Matthew 16:13-20)
This is despite the scandalous behavior of some in our Church. Notice throughout Church history, even when we have had:

  • scandals
  • bad behavior among the laity and clergy, and
  • bad practices

the Teachings Jesus left us, have never gone away. At best, they have been clarified for our well being. There have been scandalous, immoral behavior and practices on the part of lay Catholics and clergy, but this has never represented Catholic teaching, just bad, scandalous behavior.

There are also an array of new moral issues that never existed in Jesus' time, like:

  • cloning
  • in vitro fertilization
  • etc.

This is why the Lord left His Church the Holy Spirit, to guide the Church on issues of faith and morals that new Christian Church would have to deal with after our Lord's Ascension, in the future.

Final note: If she comes across in an argumentative mode on her last question, just ask her:

  • Show me a Catholic doctrine or dogma that has changed since 33 A.D.

There are none. Most uncatechized Catholics and Protestants will reply with either:

  • a custom
  • a discipline
  • a tradition (small "t")

When you reject the Teaching Authority of Our Lord's Church (the Magisterium), you miss out on a lot!, especially the insight to discern custom, discipline and traditions from dogma and doctrine.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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