Charlie's Blog: For the Church Shopper


For the Church Shopper

My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.

You are not satisfied. I understand. You go to church after church, but you just can't find a church that does it for you. Maybe it is the preaching or perhaps the music. But every church you go to leaves you unsatisfied and wanting more. There always seems to be something missing, but you just can't put your finger on it.

Other people can't understand your dissatisfaction. They think you are consumerist and selfish. You go to liturgical churches and plain churches. You go to hip churches with music that has a good beat that you can dance to. You go to churches that look like mausoleums. Others look like yuppie bars and stores at the strip mall. You have preachers dressed like stand up comedians, bikers, hippies, beach bums, and waiters. Thanks to the Protestant Revolution, there is a church that caters to just about any taste, fashion, or whim that you could possibly imagine. You have tried them all, and they all come up short.

Other people don't understand, but I understand. I get it completely. I could criticize your church shopping as just some selfish infantile reaction, but I won't. You just want to be fed, and all these churches leave you starving spiritually. I think this is a perfectly understandable reaction. I would feel the same way in those churches. They do not do anything for me either.

I would like to suggest an alternative for you. Have you ever considered the Catholic Church? I know. You were told that the pope is the antichrist. The Church of Rome is the Great Whore of Babylon. The Catholic Church is a cult. It is also a relic, a dead church, and a place full of soul killing rituals. I was told those things as well. Then, I went and looked for myself, and I realized that all those things I heard about the Catholic Church were lies. I felt angry because of the lies. I had been cheated and denied. My eyes were opened to things hidden from me since childhood.

The Catholic Church is much like Protestant churches. You have music, readings from Scripture, preaching, prayers, and what have you. If you have ever attended a liturgical church like an Anglican, Lutheran, or Episcopalian church, you won't see a whole lot of difference. We call those churches "Catholic Lite" mainly because they are less filling. So, what does the Catholic Church have that those other churches don't have? We have the Real Presence.

The reason those other churches leave you hungry is because your soul desires to feed on the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But you are given a sermon and some juice and crackers instead. This will not do. This can never satisfy. Churches try to fill the hole with entertainment. This is why so many churches begin to resemble concert halls and theaters. Preachers resort to psychological manipulation and showmanship. But it all fails to fill that hole. And maybe you get a juice and cracker meal each quarter if ever. This is because they can only offer a counterfeit to the real thing.

In the Catholic Church, they have the real thing. This would be the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as found in the Blessed Sacrament. When the priest performs the consecration, the wine and the bread become the actual body and blood of Christ. When you eat the body and drink the blood, you have actual communion with Christ. You are probably wondering what kind of craziness I am sharing here. But I am simply sharing what it says in the Bible:

 "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” 
JOHN 6:48-57 NAS
This belief has been a bone of contention between Catholics and Protestants since Luther. In fact, it has been a bone of contention among Protestants with Luther believing in the Real Presence, Calvin believing in just a spiritual presence, and Zwingli adhering to the much broader and widely accepted viewpoint that it is just juice and crackers. Who is right? Well, Zwingli was right. It really is just juice and crackers. Protestants do not have the Real Presence. This is a mercy because to eat unworthily would lead to dire consequences. So, the Protestants are left with the counterfeit that is merely a memorial and a symbol.

Where the Protestants get it wrong is in the belief that Catholics only have juice and crackers as well. This is the condemnation Catholics receive as being "cookie worshippers." This is why the Protestant revolt lead many to break into tabernacles and desecrate consecrated hosts. These actions are horrible insults to Our Lord and Savior.

This begs the question. Are the consecrated elements the actual Body and Blood? Let the Scriptures speak:

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
JOHN 6:60-66 NAS
When Jesus tells them about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He upset a lot of people including His own disciples. These disciples were so upset that they left Him. Jesus never says that his language is just a metaphor. He never says it is just symbolic. He never tells those disciples that they misunderstood Him. He really meant it. St. Paul reiterates this when he writes in 1 Corinthians 11:27, ". . .whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord." The Church Fathers also testify to this belief in the Real Presence. Here is St. Augustine:

That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God IS THE BODY OF CHRIST. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend HIS BODY AND BLOOD, WHICH HE POURED OUT FOR US UNTO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.
Sermons 227

This was the belief of all Christians. Finally, here is Martin Luther on the subject:

 Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.
Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous. 
Luther’s Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7 p, 391
The belief in the Real Presence has been consistent in Christendom since the time of Christ. It is the belief of the Eastern Orthodox and the Coptic Church. The Real Presence is not some later invention of some heretical church. It was always there from the beginning. The denial of the Real Presence was only found among heretics and the Protestants.

With the Real Presence, you see why Catholics would want to have a reverent liturgy, a beautiful cathedral, and all the rest. It makes sense. How else would you treat the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Conversely, you see how diminished so many Protestant churches are today. Why build a palace for juice and crackers? This diminished quality of the Protestant church is why you are so dissatisfied, Church Shopper.

The hunger you feel is for that true bread which is the actual body of Christ. No Protestant church can offer this. This is why every church you attend that does not have the Real Presence will leave you hungry and thirsty. Your soul desires that true communion with Christ. Your soul will accept no substitute.

My advice for you, Church Shopper, is to visit with a priest and attend Mass at your local Catholic parish. You cannot take the eucharist until you have met the requirements for acceptance into the Catholic Church. But you can be in the presence of Our Lord. I did this for a year before becoming Catholic, and those times when I could not take the eucharist were better than anything I ever experienced in a Protestant church. When I could take communion, it was the best thing I ever experienced in my soul, and that experience is undiminished even now. Attending Mass is the most important thing I do all week. I would sacrifice any job or engagement to make that appointment with my Lord.

You won't find satisfaction anywhere else. I have been everywhere else, and it isn't there. People have sacrificed careers, freedom, family, and even their lives to get what is in the Catholic Church. They could belong to any Protestant church with much less grief. But there is no substitute for the Real Presence. The Catholic Church has what you want. I recommend that you go and get it.