The Mass as a Continuing Sacrifice

The Roman Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist can be considered the core of Roman Catholicism. What do they teach about this? First, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the bread and wine at the mass are transformed into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ:

“The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: ‘Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.'” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1376

“And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable Body of our Lord, and His veritable Blood, together with His soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine” – Council of Trent, 13th Session, Chapter III

Rome further teaches that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sacrifice of Jesus Christ in an “unbloody manner” and is propitiatory, which means partaking of it remits sin:

“And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propritiatory and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent, with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence.” – Council of Trent, 22nd Session, Chapter II

Where in Scripture does Rome substantiate this teaching? One of the core proof texts is John 6:

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” – John 6:53-58 KJV

As with everything let’s look at the context, particularly the preceding text:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” – John 6:47-58 KJV

The question to ask yourself is this: was Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? Throughout John’s gospel, we find several examples of metaphorical, spiritual language used by Jesus:

“I am that bread of life.” – John 6:48 KJV

“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep . . . I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” – John 10:7, 9 KJV

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” – John 11:25 KJV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” – John 15:1 KJV

Is Jesus literally a piece of bread, a door, or a vine? Certainly not. In John 6, was Jesus telling his disciples to literally eat His flesh and drink His blood? Or was He speaking metaphorically? Look what He said in verse 63:

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” – John 6:63 KJV

Jesus said the words that He spoke were spirit and life. Again we must ask ourselves, were His words spiritual metaphors? Or were they meant to be taken literally?

Another point to consider is John 6:35. Jesus said “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” In this verse, Jesus connects “he that cometh” and “he that believeth” with never being hungry or thirsty. This is an important connection, since the issue is whether or not Jesus was speaking metaphorically in John 6:53-58. Jesus connects for us the concept of coming and believing metaphorically with eating and drinking.

The Logic of John 6

Let’s examine John 6 more closely and use the laws of logic to it break down:

In John 6:47, Jesus said “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”

In John 6:54, Jesus said “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

So to connect the dots:

  • Those who believe in Jesus = have everlasting life
  • Those who eat His flesh and drink His blood = have eternal life
  • Therefore, those who believe in Jesus = those who eat His flesh and drink His blood

Doesn’t it follow logic to say that those who believe in Jesus are the ones who are eating His flesh and drinking His blood? You cannot have one without the other without contradicting Jesus’ words.

To clarify my point let’s consider Rome’s view of John 6 is correct, and that Jesus literally meant for us to eat His flesh and drink His blood. If a person never partook in the sacrament of the Eucharist, would they still have eternal life? According to John 6:47, yes they would. Why? Because Jesus said “he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” We cannot say both conditions must be met, because that’s not what Jesus said.

Logically speaking, we must conclude that coming to Jesus and believing in Him are synonymous for eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

The Last Supper

It is the belief of Roman Catholicism that Jesus instituted transubstantiation, the changing of the bread and wine into His flesh and blood, at the last supper. Let’s look at the Scripture:

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:26-29 KJV

Looking at these verses, there are some questions to consider.

If the wine was Jesus’ literal blood, why did Jesus refer to it as “this fruit of the vine” in verse 29? Why would He call it wine if He was not speaking metaphorically?

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-28 KJV

Why did Paul refer to the bread as bread several times? If it were the literal body of Christ, why wouldn’t he refer to it as such?

Other questions to consider are how could the apostles have understood Jesus’ words to be literal when He was sitting right there with them? Jesus had not died yet, so how could the bread and wine have been His literal crucified body and blood?

The Natures of Jesus

It is an established fact that Jesus has two natures: He is both fully divine and fully human. This is known as the hypostatic union. Considering Jesus is fully human, in order to comply with the nature of a human being isn’t it true that Jesus can only be physically in one place at one time? Human beings are not omnipresent and cannot be everywhere simultaneously. How does this fit with Rome’s teaching that Jesus is physically present in His human nature on every altar in every Roman Catholic Church during every mass?

Of course, this does not detract from Jesus’ divine nature and His ability to be omnipresent as God. However there is a distinction between Jesus’ divine nature and His human nature, and they are not always interchangeable.

The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

Rome teaches that the sacrament of the Eucharist in every mass is a sacrifice of Jesus Christ in an “unbloody manner” and this sacrifice is propitiatory, which means it remits sin:

“And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propritiatory and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent, with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence.” – Council of Trent, 22nd Session, Chapter II

However, how does that fit with what we read in the Book of Hebrews?

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” – Hebrews 9:22 KJV

“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:10-14 KJV

First of all, does the Eucharist remit sin? According to Hebrews 9:22, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. If the Eucharist is an “unbloody” sacrifice, how does it remit sin?

Second, how is it that Jesus is sacrificed over and over again on Catholic altars? Hebrews 10:10-14 makes it clear that Jesus made one sacrifice for sins forever, and sat down on the right hand of God. How do Rome’s teachings fit with this?

The Implications of Rome’s Position

Imagine for a moment that maybe, just maybe, Rome’s view on John 6:53-58 is incorrect. What are the implications of the bread and wine in the Roman Catholic mass not being the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ? The implications are grave. Why do many Catholics genuflect prior to entering a pew? Why do many Catholics bow prior to receiving communion? Because they are showing reverence to what they believe is the literal body of Christ. If the bread they take in communion is not the literal body of Christ, they would be idolizing a piece of bread as God.

This underscores the critical importance of making an informed decision regarding our religious beliefs and, given the evidence, deciding whether or not to accept our church’s teachings.