Religion comes up a lot at work. Which is weird, I suppose, because religion and politics are the two subjects you aren’t supposed to talk about in public. Much less at a bar. But it comes up often, so I guess it’s a good thing I studied theology in college. A couple weeks ago I had a full bar and a lively conversation in full swing about the major differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the American Christian church (at large, no specific denominations). Of course, I had a practicing Catholic sitting down. Of course, I had a Baptist and a Methodist and an atheist, too. Most of whom were very educated on their individual beliefs (which, in all honesty, is rare and very exciting to experience).
We discussed Revelations for a while, we discussed creationism vs. evolution for an hour or so, and we even discussed the miracles of Jesus. When it came to the Eucharist, though, we stayed on the topic only long enough for my Catholic guest to communicate his confusion and disgust at what he felt was a blatant disrespect of the practice of the Last Supper by Christians.
In Biblical teachings, the Eucharist (also known as Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacrament, the Last Supper, etc.) is the practice of reenacting what is described as Jesus Christ’s final meal with his disciples in accordance with Christ’s instructions, based on recordings from several New Testament books. Luke 22:19-20 (NIV) states, “And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Broken down simply, the practice in modern churches is taking a small piece of bread and a small sip of wine with a prayer, usually during a service with everyone in attendance participating as a unit.
Most American Christian churches will practice the Eucharist at least twice a year, maybe four times. The Catholic Church, however, offers Communion at every mass (service). Every. Single. One. Which is why my Catholic guest was so flabbergasted at his Christian counterparts. He’s been eating the body of Christ every mass (roughly calculated to twice a week for this particular gentleman) for his entire life! That’s a lot of cannibalism (it’s a joke, folks). Whereas the Christians have eaten Jesus only a handful of times each. From the Catholic’s point of view, the Christians are missing out on something uniquely important to Biblical practices.
You see, the Catholic Church views the “do this in remembrance of me” part of the verse as pivotal. Like the majority of the New Testament, it is rather vague. Ambiguous verses leave the Bible open to interpretation, which is how we’ve come to amass so many different interpretations of Christianity. The verse does not dictate how often the Eucharist should be celebrated, so the Catholics chose to celebrate it every chance they get. Their practice does not make them wrong, Biblically speaking. It also doesn’t make them right, Biblically speaking. It’s an odd conundrum, to practice the same faith as another person and feel like you’re doing it better than that other person when, in reality, there’s no way to prove it and proving it would change nothing for that person’s relationship to God. But these are the type of silly semantic arguments Catholics and Christians get into everyday. If I’m going to be totally fair, these are the type of silly semantic arguments any member of any faith gets into with any member of any other faith any given day. Like arguing is going to save souls, right?
Here’s the rub; judging someone’s else faith won’t make yours stronger.