8th December, 2013
Bankole Opeyemi John
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 Jn 4:1.
I am not writing in the name of the Mother Church or with any authority or mandate from the Church in order to take this as a reaction of the Church to anyone but I am writing out of the zeal I have for the truth. Catholic Church scarcely reacts to issues like this but I felt the silence is too much nowadays. We can claim to have the true teaching of Christ but we need to make it known to the ignorant minds that are taking advantage of the tenderness and motherly attitude of the Church.
I have come to the conclusion that many Pastors in Nigeria, whosoever he may be (though not all), lack the proper understanding of the Scripture and they don’t give room for the Holy Spirit to inspire them when they are reading the Scripture. In the first place they seem to select the passages that suit them and their ideologies. The word of God is a message as a whole. It needs to be taken as a whole and not in fragments. Many read the Scripture with their personal distorted capacity to reason calling it inspiration.
I could see confusion hovering over the head of Chris Okotie. Fifty-five years of ignorance of what the Dei Verbum looks like. Don’t mind my Latin, Dei Verbum simply means the word of God. I could see the need of formation before carrying the Bible and preaching to the people. There are a lot of issues that are at stake when one lacks the appropriate information on the word of God.
Okotie is a descendant of Arius of the 4th century, his father is Martin Luther, who rejected some part of the canon of the Bible concluded even ever before his parents were born. Okotie lacks historical background to Christianity. Don’t let us forget that he is also a wounded lion in the political world in Nigeria. Only that? No, he has marital problem as well.
In chapter five of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew we read that “thou shall not judge”. It seems to me that he would be in hell first before all the Catholics. I am laughing at this man as he did not have any theological background. I am not here to teach Biblical theology on the Eucharist neither on Mariology but I think to criticize someone or any organization, proper information of it is necessary in order not to expose one’s ignorance. On topic concerning the Eucharist, (body of Christ) Virgin Mary and Purgatory let us open the Bible together dear Pastor Okotie, any version at all suits me. Kindly tell me what your human reasoning and logic is telling you from these texts below. I would like to let you know that the Eucharist is celebrated with bread and wine so I start with the historical and the Biblical background to the two, then we shall look together into the Scriptural passages on these topics.
Jesus is spiritually present in the bread. It is unleavened, pure as Jesus was pure. It has dark stripes, as His back was striped by Pilate’s scourging. It is pierced, as He was pierced on the Cross. Once it was the bread of life for Israel on the desert, as Jesus is the Bread of Life for all mankind. You can read Jn 6:35. During the Seder, the head of the family takes three pieces of unleavened bread, reminding us of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He breaks in half the second piece, suggesting the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity crucified. He then wraps one of these two pieces, called the afikomen (Hebrew: festival procession), a reminder of Jesus’ constant call, “Follow Me,” in white linen, reminding us of Jesus linen burial cloth, and “buries” or hides it, as Jesus was entombed. Later the youngest at table “resurrects” or finds the afikomen as Jesus rose from the dead. The head of the family then breaks the afikomen and passes it around for all to eat, as Jesus did when He told His apostles, Lk 22:19 “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In that way, Jesus through the Seder calls us to follow Him into His death and resurrection, to become a new person in Christ.
The unleavened bread also reminds us of the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt. The dough that they were sunbaking on the hot rocks of the Egyptian fields was removed before it could leaven, and so remained flat. It represents our need to remain ever alert and prepared for the day when God calls us to our destiny as Jesus told us, Mt 25:13 “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Jesus is spiritually present in the wine. When the afikomen is broken and passed around for all to eat, Jews drink the third of four cups of wine, called the cup of blessing because it represents the blood of the sacrificed paschal lamb. It is the cup that Jesus gave to His apostles, saying, Lk 22:20 “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My Blood.” He did not drink the fourth, the Kalah cup, explaining, Mt 26:29 “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” But later that evening at Gethsemane, Jesus prayed by moonlight, Mt 26:39 “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” After He was captured, Jesus asked Peter, Jn 18:11 “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?” Many Catholics believe that Jesus drank the last cup on the Cross, Jn 19:29 “They put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished’; and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
So far we were just digging into the historical and Biblical background to the bread and wine that the Catholic Priests (in persona Christi) in the person of Christ, by the virtue of their ordination, consecrate with the appropriate prayers in order to become the body and blood of Christ. Now let us look at it with the Scriptural backup.
The New Testament accounts describe the Holy Eucharist as Jesus gave it to us. The term “bread from heaven” becomes fully clear only when we reach the Revelation to John. The Gospels Christ said at Capernaum. Jn 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My Flesh.” Who is talking here our able pastor?
Jewish life is rich in symbolism. The Seder table is filled with symbolic foods. Jesus said, Mt 26:23 “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with Me, will betray Me.” He referred to the urhatz, the first washing; slaves eat quickly without stopping to wash their hands, but now Jews wash their hands in a bowl of warm water as a symbol of their freedom. The moror, bitter herbs which remind Jews that the Egyptians made their ancestors’ lives bitter with hard labor, are dipped in charoset, a sweet mixture of chopped apples, nuts, and wine, to recall that even hard lives have their sweet moments. The matzo is the bread of haste that the Hebrews ate as they fled from Egypt. The karpas, green vegetables, represent the coming of Spring with its renewal of life, symbolizing the journey from slavery to the promised land; Jews dip them in salt water before eating to recall the tears shed along the way. If Jesus had said the Holy Eucharist was a symbol the Jews at Capernaum would instantly have accepted it.
The Jews knew that He was speaking literally. Jn 6:52 “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” This is the same problem and preoccupation of our Pastor Okotie. On other occasions when our Lord spoke of Himself as a Jn 10:9 “door” or a Jn 15:1 “vine,” nobody said, “How can this man be made of wood?” or “How can this man be a plant?” They recognized these as metaphors. But when Jesus insisted, Jn 6:53 “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life.”
The Jews who heard this said, Jn 6:60 “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” They remembered God’s command to Noah and all mankind, Gn 9:4 “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” God spoke more forcefully to His chosen people. Lv 17:10 “I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.” It was only after Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment that the Apostles saw the full meaning of our Father’s next words. Lv 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.” In the Old Covenant our Father in heaven had commanded His children not to eat the blood of animals because we are not to participate in the life of animals. Animals, having no immortal souls, are lower than man in the order of created nature. However, in the New and Everlasting Covenant we consume the Blood of Christ to participate in Christ’s eternal life.
Jesus knew we would need a lot of help to become accustomed to the Holy Eucharist. He performed the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes in the dim light of the original Passover sacrifice Ex 12:6 and of His Crucifixion. Mt 27:45 He performed the four great Eucharistic actions: He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His apostles to feed the people: Mt 14:15 “When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.”
The three Gospel narratives of the Last Supper are absolutely consistent. Matthew: 26:26 “This is My Body.” 26:27 “This is My Blood…” Mark: 14:22 “This is My Body.” 14:24 “This is My Blood…” Luke: 22:19 “This is My Body.” 22:20 “This … is the New Covenant in My Blood.” Jesus’ next words instituted the Catholic priesthood: Lk 22:19 “Do this in remembrance of Me.” This is what we celebrate.
Jesus assured the Apostles that the Holy Eucharist is a reflection of the heavenly banquet. Mt 26:29 “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
After His resurrection, Jesus walked with two disciples to Emmaus. When they arrived, He celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them; Lk 24:30 “While He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. To know Christ, He gave us his Body.
Acts of the Apostles
The apostles celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Acts 2:46 “Day by day, attending the Temple together and breaking bread in their homes…”
The Apostles were visibly religious Jews. They wore the kippah (prayer hat), the tallit (prayer shawl with fringes) and the tephillin (phylacteries). Long after Jesus ascended to the Father, Peter protested that he had never in his life eaten anything unkosher. Acts 10:14 When these Jewish Apostles remembered Christ’s command, Lk 22:19 “Do this in remembrance of Me,” they added it to their synagogue worship. They began with synagogue prayer and Scripture readings, and then went to their homes to celebrate the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. To this very day, the Introductory Rite and Liturgy of the Word come directly from Jewish synagogue worship. The Liturgy of the Eucharist comes directly from the Apostles’ breaking bread in their homes.
At Troas, Paul spoke all night, but he made sure to receive the Holy Eucharist. Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week (first day of the week for the Jews is Sunday which became the day of worship for the Christians as it is the day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ), when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” Acts 20:11 “And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.”
On the Adriatic Sea, at dawn, Paul celebrated Mass for 276 people. Acts 27:35 “…he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.”
Acts 20:11 “When Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten…” St. Paul explained clearly what “breaking bread” meant. 1 Cor 10:16 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?” St. Paul continued, 1 Cor 11:27 “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord.” St. Paul in these words confirmed Catholic teaching that the “bread … of the Lord” is truly Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and that the “cup of the Lord” is the same substance: “Whoever … eats the bread or drinks the cup unworthily… will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord.”
St. Paul added 1 Cor 11:27-29 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
The Revelation to John
In the beginning God had said of marriage, Gen 2:24 “Therefore a man … cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Jesus assured us, Jn 6:56 “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” God prepared us first through natural marriage and then through the Holy Eucharist for the supernatural marriage to come at the end of time, Rev 20:7 “For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride [the Church] has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed in … the righteous deeds of the saints.” The Holy Eucharist, through which Christ abides in us and we in Him, will be our wedding feast. Rev 19:9 “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
.Bankole Opeyemi John is a student of Theology in Institut de saint Francois de Sales Theologicum, Lubumbashi DR Congo