Which of the Catholic Church’s teachings do you wrestle with or even deny? Is it the presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Is it purgatory or confession, or the church’s teachings on sexuality, contraception, abortion or divorce? The Catechism of the Catholic Church make clear the church’s stance on each of these issues.
When I came back to the faith several years ago I had already intellectually wrestled and explored each of these issues. Ultimately I came to agree with the magisterium. Except for the holy presence of Christ’s Body in the Eucharist. This teaching had me stumped.
I remember asking God in prayer to help me to understand this teaching. I felt guilty asking God to cure me of my limited faith. But God, being the loving Father he is, answered my prayer, though not right away.
At that time I was nanny for a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. One day I recall saying to the younger child, “you’re so cute!” She interrupted me and finished my sentence, “you want to eat me up!”
I had said this countless times before to her. But this time it occurred to me what a strange expression, “I want to eat you up!” is!
And that’s when I had a realization. Could it be that Christ’s body in the Eucharist satisfies this strange desire we have to “consume” those we love? Could it be that the deepest and most mysterious yearnings of our heart that we struggle to verbalize are met when we receive him?
When we care for someone we want to be near them. But we love them so much that being near is still too far. We want to be a part of them. Jesus is the only one who can satisfy this desire and he does so each time we say “Amen” in response to the words of Communion, “the Body of Christ.”
My doubt was erased. From that realization on I declared myself 100% Catholic and in agreement with the church.
We shouldn’t feel guilty when we have doubts or disbelief, it’s a necessary part of our spiritual journey. But we should be cautious that they don’t corrode our faith. We should instead bring our disbelief to Jesus in humble prayer and petition.
In Mark 9:24 a man brings his son to Jesus who is possessed by an evil spirit. He asks Jesus, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus replies, “If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.” The father cries out “I believe. Help my unbelief.” And Jesus then commands the evil spirit to leave the boy. And the boy is cured.
The man had reason to be struggling to believe. His son had been afflicted for years. And he had already presented the son to Jesus’ disciples, who had failed to heal the boy.
Life had put this man through the ringer, you might say. One can imagine how emotionally, physically and spiritually drained he probably was.
Still, he presented his son to Jesus. And the man chose to believe despite his feelings of disbelief. And Jesus responded to him by demonstrating his power and merciful love, and healed the son.
There are many reasons why people have doubts about teachings of the Catholic Church. Bad experiences, lack of catechesis, apathy, lack of imagination, and so on.
But we are called to lay these doubts before Jesus.
Take them to him in prayer, whatever they are, and dare to utter the beautiful prayer, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I believe that he will.
Kim Griffin is a member of the Parish of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
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