WHY I LOVE BEING CATHOLIC REASON #5:
Because of our Love Meal with Sinners
by Bo Sanchez
“Since Christ Himself has said, ‘This is My Body,’ who shall dare to doubt
that it is His Body?” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 313 A.D.
“The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but medicine for sinners.”
– Pope Francis
One unlikely Catholic convert is Allen Hunt, a megachurch methodist pastor in Atlanta. Every Sunday, 15,000 people attended his church.
This guy is brilliant. He is a Bible scholar with a Ph.D. in the New Testament and Early Church History from Yale university.
What convinced him to become Catholic?
It so happened that one of his fellow students in Yale was a Catholic priest. The priest asked Hunt to lecture in a cloistered monastery of Dominican nuns.
At the end of the lecture, a nun asked Hunt, “Why aren’t you part of the Catholic Church?”
He said, “For me, communion is a symbol. A metaphor.”
She said, “You’re a New Testament scholar, right? You remember the Gospel about Jesus gathering His disciples for the Last Supper. . . and He took the loaf and said this is My body and took the cup and said this is My blood. What don’t you understand, Allen?”
Allen was about to speak when the nun said, “He didn’t say this is like My body. He didn’t say this is like My blood. He said, ‘This is My body. This is My blood.’”
The nun continued, “Let’s open to John, chapter 6, verses 53, 54, 55, and 56 that say, ‘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 you.’ Four times in a row.” She asked again, “What don’t you understand?”
Hunt continued to read more about the early Church—those who lived between the first to the fourth century. He discovered that these early Christians believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And they believed in it so much, they were willing to die because they believed it is literally the Body and Blood of Jesus.
He studied some more. He discovered that the Eucharist was the center of worship for 1,500 years. He imagined that if one of those early Christians time-traveled today and attended one of his services in his church, the man would have heard good music, good preaching, and met nice people—but he would say, “When are we going to Church? There’s no Eucharist. When is Church?”
In 2007, this megachurch pastor converted to Catholicism. (A few years ago, Allen Hunt wrote the book Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor: How I Discovered the Hidden Treasures of the Catholic Church.)
Many Times, We Don’t Get It
One day, a married couple went out camping.
Both found themselves awake at 3:00 a.m., gazing at the stars sparkling in the night sky. The wife felt extra romantic. She squeezed her husband’s hand and asked, “Honey, what do you see?”
The man says, “I see stars.”
“And what does that mean?” she asked, cuddling up to him.
With the modulated tone of a professor’s voice, he said, “Astronomically, there are one hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone, the Milky Way galaxy, representing one hundred billion solar systems. And even if light travels at 299,792 kilometers per second, the nearest star is 4.3 light years away. So what you see now is how the stars appeared years ago.”
The wife folds her arms and tells him icily, “That’s not what I meant.”
Her husband frowns. “uh . . . what did you mean, honey?”
“Never mind. Good night,” she faces the other way and goes back to sleep.
Sometimes, we just don’t get it.
And like the husband in the story, we don’t get the Mass too. There’s a romantic moment there where God donates Himself to us in great love, and we miss it. We totally miss it. Because we only see the ritual, the bread, the wine, the words—but not the meaning.
A Meal Seals Friendships
What is the connection between eating and relationships?
This sociological phenomenon crosses all cultural and historical boundaries. Whether it be Chinese, or Egyptian, or Babylonian, or European or Asian culture, you’ll find one thing in common: When people want to strengthen a relationship, they’ll eat together.
It’s our experience that if we eat with someone over a meal, we break down barriers between people.
The food somehow brings the diners together.
For example, in ancient Hebrew culture, a meal goes beyond biological feeding. Meals were used to seal friendships. Business deals are sealed with a meal—because they want to depart as friends, not just business partners.
If I invite you to a meal, I’m declaring to the world that you’re my friend.
That was why when Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, it was a terrible scandal—because He was declaring to the world that He was their friend.
That was why when Jesus hollered to chief tax collector Zacchaeus to come down from the sycamore tree because he would eat in his home, it was an outrage.
That was why when Judas broke faith with Jesus right after the Last Supper, it was a grievous betrayal between two friends.
That is why the Bible says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Revelations 3:20, ESV).
And His meal ministry doesn’t stop, because heaven is the eternal banquet.
What Is Communion?
Communion is a marriage proposal.
At every Mass, God is saying, “I love you. I want you to be totally one with Me.”
Every Mass is a date with your Lover.
Every Mass is a family reunion.
Every Mass is a party. Every Mass is designed to deepen your relationship with God.
At Mass, He is sealing His friendship with you.
But He doesn’t do it with an ordinary meal.
He does it in such a dramatic way because the meal is Himself. That’s why any human analogy of the Mass will not be enough.
I Tried to Explain the Mass to a Twelve-Year-Old
One day, a nun is teaching a kindergarten class.
She asks the kids, “Can anyone tell me why we should be quiet in church?”
The kids look at each other, wondering what is the right answer. Finally, the brightest girl in the class raises her hand.
The nun smiles and says, “Yes, Sandy. Tell the whole class why little children should be quiet at Mass.”
Little Sandy says, “Because people at Mass are sleeping?”
This story reminds me of the day I was attending Mass with a twelve-year-old. From the corner of my eye, I saw him dozing, his head bobbing.
Looking around me, I saw at least six other persons sleeping. OK, perhaps I could have been mistaken. Perhaps they were meditating the deep mysteries of the Trinity.
After Mass, my young friend was so thankful it was over. That was when he asked me a big question—a question I’m glad he asked: “Brother Bo, who invented the Mass anyway?”
I said, “God invented the Mass. Jesus celebrated the first Mass and He said, ‘Do this in memory of Me’ (see Luke 22:19). So He wants us to celebrate Mass.”
“But why does it have to be so boring?”
“Because we don’t get it. We don’t realize that the Mass is a Teleporter, a Time Machine, and a Transformer.”
“What?” His eyes were as large as saucers.
In the movie Star Trek, Captain Kirk says, “Beam me up, Scotty.”
And from whatever planet he is in, he is back in his spaceship in a blink of an eye.
How does he do it? It’s called teleportation.
Nightcrawler, one of the X-Men, can teleport. Loki, likewise, can teleport from Asgard to Earth.
Too bad, that is all fiction. Yet fiction is great because it expresses our innermost desires, our deepest aspirations.
But there is real teleportation in the real world. It’s called prayer. Prayer is the only real teleportation in existence. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.” And at Mass, this teleportation is even more special, because it’s God’s command: “Do this in memory of Me.” That’s why in the Mass, we pray, “Now with angels and archangels, and the whole company of heaven, we sing the unending hymn of Your praise . . . Holy, Holy, Holy . . . .”
Scott Hahn says when you attend Mass, the eyes of your faith shouldn’t anymore see the ceiling of the building. The eyes of your faith should see the ceiling opening up. You should see the clouds dividing, like two curtains pulled apart to expose a grand stage, and you should see an explosion of brilliant light—and then, you should see God seated on His throne, surrounded by millions of saints and angels.
2. Time Machine
Remember the movie Back to the Future? Hollywood is fascinated by time travel.
Believe it or not, the Mass is the real time machine.
When Jesus said, “Do this in memory of Me,” He wasn’t just talking about a mere remembering of what happened before, like flipping through a photo album or walking through a museum.
When you’re at Mass, and the host and cup are being raised in consecration, spiritually, you’re brought back in time two thousand years ago— when Jesus, as a human being, gave Himself to you. In the Mystery of the Mass, the past becomes present. You’re transported back into that event, time, and place.
Here’s what it means: At every Mass, the altar table becomes Golgotha, the broken host becomes His broken Body, the poured out wine becomes His Blood gushing from His wounds.
So why does God choose to become a tiny biscuit? Why does God choose to become so helpless? So powerless? To remind you of what He did on the Cross. The helpless, powerless Criminal hanging on Calvary is the same helpless, powerless wafer melting on your tongue.
One day, a family from the barrio—a couple and their little boy—visited a mall for the very first time in their life. What a shock it was for them. upon entering, the wife ran off by herself, overwhelmed by the shops.
The father and son walked more cautiously.
In the middle of the mall, they saw something mysterious to them: two shiny, silver doors that moved apart and back together. Above, there was a blinking light.
The boy asked his father, “What is that, Papa?”
“Some type of machine. I don’t really know what it is, son,” he answered. “Let’s just see what will happen.”
As they spoke, an old woman walked through the shiny doors. Before the doors closed, the old woman turned around and faced them. They were able to see her tired, wrinkled face, the gnarled hands holding her cane. She smiled at them, revealing a few missing teeth. And then the doors shut.
Above the doors, the light blinked a number of times. And when the doors opened, lo and behold, out came a sexy, young, beautiful woman. Their jaws dropped in total shock.
After a few moments, the father grabbed his boy’s shoulder and said, “Quick! Go find your mother!”
That’s what you call a transformer. Obviously, there’s no such thing. Or is there?
The Mass Should Change You Because . . .
Friend, the Mass should be a transformer. It should change lives. Why? Because the essence of Mass is God’s love. And love is the only thing that can change us. Nothing else can do that miracle. At its core, the Mass is really a love meal for sinners.
When the father embraced his swine-smelling prodigal son and told his servants to kill the fattened calf so they could have a feast for him, that was an early picture of the Mass.
I repeat: The Mass, at its essence, is a love meal for sinners.
Sometimes, people think that the Mass is for holy people. No, it isn’t. If it were, then there will be no priest holy enough to celebrate the Mass. Holiness cannot change anyone. Only love can! The Mass is for sinners. My friend Arun Gogna says it this way: “Jesus is giving His broken Body for His broken people.” So tell me: If you receive the Mass as God’s love, how can you not change?
The Kiss of God
We believe that the Eucharist is your highest point of union with God on earth. Sacramentally, it’s the closest we can ever get to God here on planet Earth.
The Eucharist is the kiss of God.
The Eucharist is the most eloquent expression of His affection for you.
The Eucharist is God’s sweetest serenade.
The Eucharist is His warmest embrace.
The Eucharist is to be ravished by God.
Tell me: How can you not change?
What is the host?
A piece of wafer, made of flour and water, cut and shaped into one-inch-diameter circles, baked for thirty minutes at 350 degrees in massive ovens, and then placed in plastic containers, sold in the shelves of religious stores.
Approximate price for each wafer? Ten centavos. Be honest with me. If you see a ten- centavo coin on the sidewalk, would you actually stop, bend over, and pick it up? I don’t think so. That wafer, financially, is worth nothing.
But that ten-centavo wafer becomes the Flesh and Blood of Jesus—Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End. It becomes the Author of Life, the Lion of Judah, the Bright Star of the Morning, the Lamb of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Why do I believe this? The Bible says so. Protestants claim to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Except for this verse. In this passage, it’s the Catholics who believe in the literal interpretation of the Word when Jesus said, “This is My Body, this is My Blood.” We believe the Eucharist is not a symbol of Jesus.
It is Jesus.
When Jesus spoke about people eating His Body, the Bible says the crowds left in droves (see John 6:22-59). Why? Because Jews thought Jesus was talking about cannibalism.
Think with me: If the bread were merely a “symbol” of Christ’s Body, it wouldn’t have caused an outrage. When the crowds were leaving, Jesus could have said, “Wait a minute! You’ve misunderstood Me. What I was trying to say was the bread symbolized My Body.”
But He didn’t do that.
And for the first one thousand years of Church history, no one questioned the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
If God Can Change Bread into His Body . . .
Did you know?
There was a time when the bread offered at Mass was baked by the parishioners, and the wine was pressed and bottled by the churchgoers.
Imagine a family where the father buys the flour, the mother pours it onto a pan, the kids knead it together and put it in the oven. And they wrap it in brown paper, bring it to church, and present it to the priest at the altar.
In a very tangible sense, it was really the offering of their lives.
It wasn’t just bread. It was their bread. The ingredients weren’t just flour and water—but their hands, their effort, their time, their laughter, their stories, their love.
Their life has been baked into the bread.
We don’t have that sense of offering the bread anymore today, because the wafers were bought from a store.
But at least, think of it in that way. Remember that the bread was originally our offering to God. It symbolized our ordinary lives, including our weaknesses.
But in a blink of an eye, that bread becomes Jesus.
Through the Mass, Jesus is telling me that my ordinary life—like that bread—can become holy and beautiful and glorious, too.
Here’s the message of the Mass: If God can change ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, He too can change your ordinary life into the image and likeness of Jesus.
That is why the Mass is the essence of the entire Gospel.
The Mass is saying, “Jesus will transform your life.”
And that, my friends, is the greatest miracle in the world.
You Know You Went to Mass If . . .
One day, someone asked me, “Bo, I don’t know whether or not I went to Mass this morning.”
What a strange question. I asked, “Why?”
“Because I arrived late. I arrived at the tail end of the Gospel. And someone told me that if a person arrives before the Gospel, then his Mass is valid. So I don’t know if I went to Mass or not this morning.”
I smiled and answered, “You know you went to Mass not by how you came but by how you left. You went to Mass if you left the Mass a little more like Jesus. Perhaps a little less judgmental. A little less critical. A little less greedy. A little less selfish.”
Friend, people in the world are looking for Jesus. Will you be one?
I remember one of our authors, Fr. Joel Jason, sharing this question. He asked his congregation, “What is the most important part of the church?”
A lot of people said altar and pulpit and tabernacle.
His answer floored them. He said, “The most important part of the church is the door.”
Why the door? Because in the Mass, God is saying, “In the same way that you received Jesus, so now, go through those doors and become Jesus to the world.”
The word Mass comes from the Latin word Missa, which means “to send.” The entire meaning of the Mass is to be commissioned, anointed, knighted.
A Deeper Meaning of “Do This . . .”
Let me tell you the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words, “Do this in memory of Me.”
He wasn’t only speaking about repeating the ritual of the Mass. He was speaking about repeating the love of the Mass.
“Do this in memory of Me” means:
“I gave My life to you. Do the same.”
“I died for you. Do the same.”
“I sacrificed Myself for love. Do the same.”
“I washed the feet of My disciples. Do the same.”
“I offered Myself in total love. Do the same.”
The Mass is always a call to die for others, to be broken bread for those who are hungry and drink for those who are thirsty. How can you recognize the presence of Jesus in a piece of bread when you cannot recognize His presence in the poor, the sick, the prisoner, in a difficult person?
You become what you eat.
Eat Jesus. Become Jesus.
Connected with this love meal of sinners is another sacrament.
*This excerpt is taken from Why I Love Being Catholic by Bo Sanchez.
Photo from Unsplashed.com
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