Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist?

Recent years have seen a growing concern about Catholics' understanding of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Some surveys show that a number of practicing Catholics are not clear about the doctrine of real presence. Some think of consecrated bread and wine as only symbols of Jesus' presence rather than a genuine change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, the long-standing Catholic understanding.

The Eucharist is, for Catholics, both a meal and a sacrifice. The Lord gave us the Eucharist at the Last Supper because he wanted us to share in the life of the Trinity, the loving communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We become united to God at our Baptism, and receive a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit at our Confirmation. In the Eucharist we are nourished spiritually, brought closer to God, again and again. As Jesus says in John's Gospel: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56).

This meal of fellowship and unity, though, also is understood as a sacrifice. Why is that? Because Jesus died for our sins. Human sin was so great that we could never share fully in the life of God. Jesus came to reunite us.

At the Eucharist, we re-present the outpouring of Christ's life so that our life can be restored. This gift of life is happening in eternity, always. We remember this in a special way when we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy at Mass, recalling the words of Isaiah 6:3, the hymn of the angels before God. We sing our praise before the "lamb of God," slain to take away the sin of the world, all that separates us from God (see Jn 1:29).

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