WARNING: This Lesson May Change Your Life Forever
Do you really need to be in the Catholic Church in order to be saved and have eternal life in heaven? I used to think one way and now I have found out the truth.
Welcome to another episode of All About My Catholic Faith. I’m Scott, and I’m Christopher, and we are the Two Cj’s. We’ve been working on this catechism podcast series to help you learn a little bit more about the Catholic Faith.
A couple of lessons ago, I asked you if you were familiar with the Bread of Life discourse.
So I thought we could go through that a bit today.
Ok, sounds good. This is from the Bible, right?
That’s right. The Bread of Life Discourse is found in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. If you have your Bible handy, get it out and turn to Chapter 6 of John so you can follow along.
Before we get into the reading, a little Old Testament lesson. Back in the time of Moses, the Jewish people were made to wander in the desert for forty years because of their lack of faith and belief in God. God didn’t do this simply as a punishment, but instead to help his chosen people grow in faith and trust in him. One way he did that was to give them manna.
While they were wandering in the desert, you can probably imagine that it was hard for them to find enough food to eat on a consistent basis. God promised them that if they would just have faith, He would feed them with the manna, which was actually bread that fell from the sky each morning like dew. In order to help them build their faith and trust in him, he instructed them to only eat as much as they needed each morning, and not to try to gather up extra for later. I bet that was hard for them, not knowing if and when God would stop feeding them with this manna. How tempting it would be to dishonor God and go against his instructions. I bet a lot of people today would gather all they could just in case God didn’t deliver for a while. At least they would fend off their starvation for a little while.
Those who followed the will of God were rewarded in great ways.
Let’s turn now to Chapter 6 in the Gospel of St. John.
The chapter starts off with the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus walking on water:
After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee [of Tiberias]. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
When it was evening, his disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.
That sets the stage, so to speak, for the next day and the Bread of Life Discourse that starts in verse 22. You’ll see that the people started to realize that perhaps Jesus was actually the Son of God, but they still needed a little more proof:
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”
The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,”
and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Doesn’t sound like they really believed he was the Son of God.
Probably not yet! We just read that they were murmuring among themselves about Jesus. Murmuring would be like a lot of people in a crowd talking about something among themselves, kinda like after a great play in a baseball game, when everyone in the stadium is talking about that great play, but a player on the field would have no idea what the “buzz” was all about.
Same thing here, but we’re about to hear that Jesus knew exactly what they were all saying. A mere human wouldn’t be able to understand what all these people were saying, but Jesus, of course, is not just a mere human, he is God.
Let’s continue at verse 43:
Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 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.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “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. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
How do we know that Jesus wasn’t speaking figuratively? Didn’t he do that in other places in the Bible?
He often did, especially when he was teaching with parables. Here though, when Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood” the word that was used in the original Greek for eat was “gnaw”. So using such a descriptive word such as “gnaw” probably indicated this was not just a figure of speech. Keep listening as we continue with verse 54:
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
So, I see that Jesus is saying that eating his flesh, or his body, is the key to being saved and to having eternal life in heaven. Is that right?
You nailed it.
There were some of his followers who thought that what Jesus was saying about eating his flesh and drinking his blood was too hard to accept and so they started walking away. This was another clue that they really and truly understood that Jesus was speaking in real terms of actually needing to eat or gnaw on his body in order to make it to heaven. They weren’t willing to do that and many returned to their former way of life and stopped following Jesus. A very important fact here is that Jesus never said to those who were walking away, “wait, don’t leave, I was only speaking figuratively, I didn’t really mean that you have to really eat my flesh”. He didn’t force them to stay, just like he doesn’t force anyone to believe in him and follow him still today. We hear at the end of chapter 6, that even though many left, many believed even deeper and kept following:
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.
If we fast forward just a bit to the Last Supper that we talked about in the last two lessons, and keeping in mind this all so important Bread of Life Discourse that we heard today, then it should be crystal clear that if we believe that Jesus is God from all the miracles he has done, and we truly understand that he is one with God the Father, and we accept that God really and truly wants what’s best for us, and to have eternal life in heaven one day, then we must see that eating his flesh and drinking his blood is vital to our everlasting survival. Jesus clearly said in verse 53, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life within you”, and then he continued, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
I guess that’s why you’ve said, that in order for us to be saved and make it to heaven, we must be in the Catholic Church.
You are right, once again.
The only way possible that someone can be saved is to be part of Jesus Christ’s Church, his Mystical Body; to live in the way that he commands us through his Church; staying in a state of grace and repenting when we do fall short; eating his flesh and drinking his blood. The only way we can eat his flesh and drink his blood is at communion in the Catholic Church. So, yes, in order to be saved and to have eternal life in heaven, we must belong to the Catholic Church.
Since God does will that everyone makes it to heaven, and since he knows that there may be some people, who by no fault of their own, don’t know the truths about Jesus and about his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, then it may be possible for these people to still be saved. Only God knows how this can happen outside the Church, and God alone is the Judge in these matters. The Church has always taught this and continues to teach that this is the way to salvation.
We will continue next week talking about some more details of receiving the Holy Eucharist at Communion.
I hope you’ll remember to pray for everyone you know, that they will come to know and believe in Jesus and become an integral part of his Church. I ask for you to also pray for Christopher and I, and our family members, and we promise to pray for you.
Until next week, God Bless You and goodbye for now.