Are all religions 'right' and is the host really Jesus' flesh?

Are all religions 'right' and is the host really Jesus' flesh?

Dear Fr. Joe: There are a lot of different religions in the world and a lot of people think theirs is the only true one. Other people think we’re all right. I’m confused – what’s the real answer?

OK, here’s the real deal. One of the things about the American culture that is beautiful is our intense desire to be accepting people. When we are accepting, we can be acting in a very Christ-like manner. However, sometimes in our efforts to be open-minded, we accept too much. Or, as one of my seminary classmates put it, “You can be so open-minded that your brain falls out.”

Jesus came as a divine person who was many things – the Son of God, our hope, our savior and more. But Jesus also came as the truth. Read section 2466 of the Catechism for more information.

Some people will tell you the truth is subjective. They say, “You have your truth and I have mine.” That, my brothers and sisters, is just plain wrong. There is only one truth and we can participate in it fully or partially.

There always are and always will be things that are more truthful than others and this includes our relationship with God.

What if I were to say your car was red while you were to say it was maize and blue? Now, as beautiful as those two colors are when put together on, say, a Rose Bowl pennant, it’s not like your car would appear maize and blue to me and red to you, right?

We know there is truth out there and it is not a matter of opinion, so we have an obligation to find out what it is.

Dear Fr. Joe: Do we really believe as Catholics that the host becomes Jesus’ flesh? And the wine becomes his blood? Isn’t it just a symbol?

Well, to quote a great theologian, “The Eucharist. It’s a trip!” OK, maybe nobody said that before me, but it is true. What we believe is wild and we are unapologetic about it, because love is a radical thing and that is what we are dealing with there. Jesus’ radical love and his desire to be part of us.

The primary passage for our belief about the Eucharist is John 6. In this chapter, when Jesus spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, his listeners thought it was “over the top” and walked away. Jesus’ followers dwindled from a couple thousand to twelve – in one day!

But we do believe that this is Jesus’ flesh and blood. We consume him to become more like him and for him to enter more deeply into us. In the Eucharist, St. Augustine encouraged us to “receive who we are and become who we receive.” We believe that in the Eucharist, Jesus enters into our bodies and becomes a part of who we are. Jesus is in our blood, our heart and our muscle. He is our breath, our words, our love and our life.

What a gift! The Eucharist is why I became a priest.

For more information about  Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, see page 26 for our first installment about issues and interests in this Year of the Eucharist.

Dear Fr. Joe: When I go to confession, how should I examine my conscience?

Well, there are a few options here. First – and my personal favorite – I look at where my life is headed and how I came to be headed that way. Think of a pyramid – you are starting at the bottom with your “general sins,” then moving up toward the top with your “specific sins.”

Another way to do it is to look at the Ten Commandments and/or the beatitudes and see how you stack up. There are many ways to examine your conscience, but the goal is always the same – we need to look at our lives and see where we need mercy. And the great thing is – God is always there to give it to us!

Enjoy another day in God’s presence.