Because We Recognize Him
What happened to them? They used to be with us at church - the younger ones. Ah, yes, they’ve been walking away for a number of years now. “Was there something that could have been done?” So many of us ask that question these days.
There have been several studies and surveys attempting to answer, “why are they leaving?” A whole array of reasons has been voiced: many said that their spiritual needs were not met, others said they just lost interest, still others disagreed with some of the Church’s teachings; and the list goes on as reported by Doctors Hardy and Paterson at Benedictine University. 1 It’s; quite a list; but is there something common to many, if not most, of those who walked away?
It’s been observed that Luke’s Gospel gives us a possible answer to that question. Luke tells us that the two disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus raced back to Jerusalem, with great joy, to share with their friends the “good news.” This Sunday’s Gospel reading, taken from Luke, begins with: “Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” [Luke 24:35].
The two disciples had recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread.”
At every mass, those who have walked away, at every mass we’ve ever attended, the distribution of communion is preceded by the ‘breaking of the bread.” Indeed, in much of the first century, what we call the mass was known then as the Breaking of the Bread. It seems that those who walked away failed to recognize Jesus in the “breaking of the bread.” Why?
Friends, today we live in a world that is at war. But it’s not a war with weapons, it is a war of ideas. More and more enemies of truth have concluded that it’s easier to dominate people with the power of false ideas than with the power of weapons. So, every day, our young people confront false ideas at school, at work, in conversations, on social media, in entertainment, from news outlets. And the most damaging is the claim that “this real presence of Jesus stuff, it’s all in your imagination, it’s just wishful thinking.” 2
Our young people were not prepared to refute this false claim.
Our young people were not prepared to refute this false claim; they didn’t know what to say. And psychology research over the last decade or so has shown again and again that people who find they are unable to refute a claim, readily accept that claim as true. 3 In buying into that claim, they are walking away. And in walking away, they deny themselves the gift of Christ Himself. As Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix put it recently “The greatest anchor Christians have in the midst of modern turmoil is Christ himself, found in the holy Eucharist.” 4 So many of our young people have lost their anchor.
Now many of you may be thinking, “Why are you bringing this up? This is a really painful subject. For many of us, these are our kids, our family and friends you’re talking about. Why are you bringing this up?” Because there are many more of us who are also not prepared to refute that false claim either; we don’t know quite what to say.
We’re in danger of having even more walk away in this war of ideas.
Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles recently cautioned that we’re in danger of having even more walk away in this war of ideas because they don’t have a clear response to that false claim. So, let me share with you the response suggested by Bishop Barron. He said that we should go directly to the words of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Jesus, while holding bread, clearly stated as recounted in the Bible, “This is my body” [Luke 22:19] and similarly with a cup of wine, He said, “This is my blood” [Luke 22:20] and “do this in remembrance of me.” [Luke 22:19]. He also said, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life within you.” [John 6:53].
We’ve used Jesus’ own words; clearly there’s nothing imaginary about this. And “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood” certainly isn’t wishful thinking on our part. With this response, we have clearly stated why we believe. As St Peter said in his 1st letter: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason why you believe; but do it with gentleness and reverence” [1 Peter 3:15-16a].
Friends, because we recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread, and can confidently answer why we believe, we will not walk away.
‘Till next time,
Deacon Bob Evans
April 18, 2021
1 Phillip Hardy and Brian Patterson, Understanding the Attitudes and Behaviors of Active and Inactive Catholics, 2014.
2 Jeff Myers and David Noebel, Understanding the Times, 2015.
3 M. Basol, et. al., Good News about Bad News, 2020.
4 “Bishop Olmsted explains why the Real Presence needs to be the foundation of faith for Catholics,” in Our Sunday Visitor, April 12, 2021.
5 Bishop Robert Barron, The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (video), April 18, 2020.
Luke 22:19; 22:20; 24:35; John 6:53; 1 Peter 3:15-16a.