Bible Study: The Bible and the Mass (Lesson 1, Part 5)
This is Part 5 to the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. The other parts can be found here:
- Part 1 – How is the Mass Based on the Bible?
- Part 2 – Why is the Mass Biblical Worship?
- Part 3 – St. Paul Corrects the Corinthians on How to Do the Mass
- Part 4 – The New Covenant is the Mass
Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass. This lesson points out how the Gospel of John explains the theological significance of the Eucharist and also summarizes what Scriptures say about the Eucharist.
John’s Gospel doesn’t record the scene from the upper room.
This isn’t surprising. In general, John is more concerned to explain the deep biblical background of Jesus’ words and deeds and to fill-in apparent gaps in the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Though he doesn’t narrate Jesus saying, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood,” John gives us two sermons in which Jesus says something very similar.
In the one, delivered in a synagogue at Capernaum during Passover, He says two times: “I am the Bread of Life” (see John 6:34, 51). In the other, delivered at the Last Supper (see John 13:2,4), Jesus again says two times: “I am the Vine” (see John 15:1,5).
In both scenes, Jesus makes a direct statement about His identity (“I am”). He also uses the same expression in both to describe the life-giving communion He has come to bring.
Those who eat Him as the Bread of Life “remain in Me,” he says. Those who are joined to Him through the Eucharistic wine, the fruit of the true Vine, also “remain in Me,” He says (compare John 6:56; John 15:4-7).
This is the summary of how the Eucharist is explained in the Scriptures:
The Eucharist is “covenantal.” As presented in the Gospels, the Eucharist is the climax of the salvation history unfolded in the covenants of the Old Testament. It has a special relationship to Israel’s Passover and Exodus.
The Eucharist is sacrificial and atones for sin. That’s the literal meaning of the words attributed to Jesus at the Last Supper.
The Eucharist is a memorial that creates the Church, the body of those who believe. The command to “do this” calls the Church into being. Through its remembrance, the Church offers God’s new and everlasting covenant to all generations.
The Eucharist is communion in the Body and Blood of Jesus that brings eternal life. As Paul says of the Eucharist: “Is it not a participation (literally “communion”) in the Blood of Christ . . . in the Body of Christ?” (see 1 Corinthians 10:16).
The Eucharist is eating and drinking in the Kingdom of God until the Lord comes. The Eucharist remembers a past salvific event, relives that event in the present, and stirs hope for a future salvific happening – the final coming of the Lord.
There is so much to the Eucharist, it is very difficult for me to absorb all at once. It’s very clear to me that the Eucharist is what truly separates Catholic Christians from other ecclesial communities. If what the Church says about the Eucharist is not true, then how can Catholics even be called Christians? We would be guilty of idolatry because we’d be worshipping bread and wine. The Eucharist is the center of everything! Why can’t I go to daily Mass? Lord, help me!