Why Jesus is Really Present in the Eucharist — Responding to Protestant Objections

Many Protestants object to Catholics’ belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist— body, blood, soul, and divinity. Here are some refutations to some of those objections. Keep in mind that these answers are not exhaustive, but they at least offer a good start.

The bread and wine are just symbolic. Jesus speaks symbolically many times in the Bible, and this is one of those times.

Jesus does speak symbolically many times in the Bible. So how do we know he’s not speaking symbolically about the Eucharist? Let’s focus on John 6. After Jesus feeds the five thousand, the crowd returns the next day for more food. In verse 35, Jesus declares, “‘ I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” In verse 41, “[t]he Jews murmured about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’” The crowd’s reaction indicates that they took Jesus literally. When Jesus speaks symbolically in other points in the Bible, he clarifies what he means, but here, Jesus reiterates his words further. In verse 51, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

In verse 52, we see that the Jews then “quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’” Here, we continue to see that the crowd took Jesus literally — so much so that they quarreled. Instead of backtracking to explain that He was just being symbolic, Jesus says in verse 53, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” The words “amen, amen, I say to you,” are important here because they indicate that what follows is a solemn oath. 

In verse 54, Jesus goes even further to say, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” In verse 54, the Greek verb Jesus uses is not the Greek verb for human eating, but rather for animalistic eating, which can be translated as “munch” or “gnaw.” Now, instead of just saying “eat,” Jesus is being more clear that He is not speaking symbolically by saying “munch” or “gnaw.”

If this evidence isn’t enough, let’s look at what the early Christians believed. For 1500 years, the vast majority of Christians believed the Eucharist to literally be Jesus’s body and blood. We see in the Bible how quick God is to put an end to the worship of the golden calf. If the Eucharist was merely a symbol, the early Christians would be guilty of worshiping a false god. Why wouldn’t God act the same as He did with the golden calf? 

We also see that St. Paul believed in the Real Presence. In 1 Corinthians 10:16, St. Paul writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” In 1 Corinthians 11:27–29, he says, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” St. Paul’s language is incredibly clear, and his emphasis on the necessity of receiving the Eucharist worthily indicates he is not speaking of a mere symbol.

The Eucharist doesn’t look like flesh, so it must just be bread.

Yes, the Eucharist still looks like bread, not flesh. But this does not mean it isn’t Jesus’s body; it means God knows our human nature. Our Creator knows we would be incapable of eating what appears to be human flesh, but eating what appears to be bread is rightly ordered with our nature.

Furthermore, throughout most of Jesus’s life, He was not recognized as God but only as a human. His humanness and ordinary appearance doesn’t change the fact the He is truly God, just like His appearance as bread doesn’t change the fact the He is truly present. 

There is no scientific evidence for the Real Presence.

Many Eucharistic miracles have been scientifically analyzed. Here is a link to an article discussing scientific findings from some of the Eucharistic miracles.

It isn’t necessary. Faith alone will save me.

This goes into a separate discussion about whether faith alone saves. There is lots of biblical evidence that faith and works are necessary for salvation, but to focus on the fact that receiving the Eucharist is necessary, we can look to Jesus’s words in John 6:53. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

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