Memorial of Saint Athanasius

If someone asked you why you were Catholic, how would you answer?  If someone told that I could only give a one-word answer to why I am Catholic?  My answer, probably not surprisingly, would not take long.  “Eucharist.”

That is not the only thing that the Church offers.  There are many other great things.  Other sacraments. Especially Reconciliation.  Proclamation and interpretation of Scripture.  Two millennia of tradition and development of doctrine.  Really too many things to mention if I am honest.

But many of those same things are found in other faiths.  Perhaps some are unique to the Church.  But the Eucharist as Jesus gave to us in which the substance of the bread and wine change to his Body and Blood is not found in Protestant churches.  It is not found in non-Christian faiths. 

All this week in John 6, Jesus has been increasing his emphasis on the need to consume the Eucharist.  Jesus first says that he is the bread of life.  Then, he says that we must consume this bread of life.  Next, he says that we must both eat his flesh and drink his blood.  And, in today’s passage, many people leave.  They return to their former ways of life.

Jesus turns to the Apostles to ask if they too will leave.  Peter, once again, is the first to respond.  “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are  convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” 

If I answered Jesus himself about remaining in the Church, I would paraphrase Peter.  “Lord, to where else should I go?  It is here in your Church that I can find your Real Presence, body and blood, soul and divinity.”

Even in our own families, we see some leaving the Church.  But do they really know what they are leaving?  Do they really understand?   Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”  G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”  It seems that people leave the Church and/or come to dislike it because of a lack of understanding about it.  It does not help that some opponents of the Church have successfully constructed some grossly distorted strawmen of the Church.  If I believed those mischaracterizations, I too would not want to be part of the Church.

But, if only more people knew the truth…if only more people knew what they were missing…if only more people knew what they were leaving behind…