The understanding of the Eucharist is still a challenge and at times a divisive issue among Christians denominations. Jesus was very clear and forceful in his pronouncements about his invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Many were offended and turned from him.
Jesus asked his disciples if they too would turn away. Peter said, “To whom should we turn? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus says further, “Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you” (John 6:53).
There is mystery here, and there is fact. Many times in history Jesus has given us factual reminders about his REAL presence in the Eucharist. Among 153 recognised miracles there is Lanciano, where we find the remains of a bloody Host and preserved human heart, transformed from a consecrated Host. A Basilian priest who doubted the Real Presence of Christ prayed for faith. During the consecration, the bread in his hands and under his eyes actually turned into flesh and blood.
More amazing is the 1996 Eucharistic miracle at Buenos Aires. Here on August 18, as Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass, a woman told him she had found a discarded host at the back of the church. Fr. Alejandro put the Host into a container of water in the tabernacle.
On Monday, August 26, he saw to his amazement that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. For several years this event was kept a secret until Bergoglio set up an extensive investigation.
Startling and real: Dr. Frederic Zugiba, cardiologist and forensic pathologist, testified that, “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves… The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken.” (Internet Source)
Not only did the tissue prove to be alive and of a male human heart, but DNA tests revealed that it was from the same human source as the Lanciano tissue of more than 1300 years before. The Catholic Church is still sorting out the facts involved and moving in the cautious manner of habit, but the startling facts can enrich our faith in the Eucharist.
These facts revealed about the Lanciano and Buenos Aires manifestations can only strengthen the beliefs of the faithful. In both cases scientists have found actual living human tissue. Jesus Christ, body and blood, is alive and present to nourish us as we minister to others. And Jesus wants us to recognise his presence in a special way in the Eucharist.
It is a challenge to our Christian churches to work out the details. The Body of Christ is Christ’s gift to nourish us all, to build his very life in us. Eternal life has begun inside us. The part of us that is Christ will never die. It is as St Augustine said, “We become what we eat.”
The Body of Christ in the Eucharist is an invitation to all: "Take this and eat it, for this is my body" (Matthew 26:26). “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (John 6:54).