Thursday, April 2, 2015

Metaphor, or True Transubstantiation?

Ever notice how people often cite a verse from Scripture without considering the context in which it was written?  Sometimes the verse does indeed support the truth of the point that is being made, but often it is misinterpreted such that the point being made is NOT the truth.

Today, I am thinking about this verse from Scripture: “Do this in memory of me.”  This is a quote attributed to Jesus at the Last Supper (on the very first Holy Thursday) after he referred to the bread and wine that he was giving to his apostles as his very own body and blood.  Some Christians interpret this verse to mean that the bread and wine are mere symbols and his statements mere metaphors.  They say that the apostles were to perform this same ceremony only as a memorial and not to be construed as the real thing.  Of course, devoted Catholics, like me, believe that he did mean it to be construed as the real thing, as Jesus explained in the Gospel of John, Chapter 6.  Within this chapter we find what has been referred to as the Bread of Life discourse.  Catholics believe that this discourse proves that Jesus intended that “transubstantiation,” the changing of the bread and wine into his actual body and blood, would take place when we do this in his memory.  So this, Catholics believe, is what occurs at every Catholic Mass.

There is an entire series of statements given by our Lord in John 6 that leave no doubt in my mind that the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood (See John 6:51-57).  Still, some Christians will say that these statements are also metaphors.  They say that his references to “my flesh,” or “the flesh of the Son of man” actually refer to his teachings, not his actual body and blood.  However, near the end of the Bread of Life discourse, when many of his disciples murmured among themselves, saying “who can accept this?” our Lord didn’t stop them to say “Wait, I’m only speaking metaphorically.”   No, he let them walk away.  As further contextual evidence, I would say that this “metaphor” idea was not the interpretation of the early church leaders, including St. Paul, who speaks of the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 11, verses 23-32.  So indeed it seems that citing a single verse, or even a series of verses, of Scripture to support one’s position on a particular article of faith without considering the context can be dangerous.

My prayer today, on this Holy Thursday:  Lord, be at my side when I read Scripture and help me to always consider the context of what I am reading so as to be able to discern the true meaning.  Amen.

The photo is of the life-size sculpture of the Last Supper on the grounds of the Trinity Heights Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

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