Pope Francis: Do not water down the truth of the Eucharist

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Pope Francis greets pilgrims during the Angelus on July 25, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Aug 22, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday encouraged Catholics to not water down the reality of Jesus Christ’s humanity and his teaching that the Eucharist is his Body and Blood.

“Indeed, Jesus affirms that the true bread of salvation, which transmits eternal life, is His very flesh,” Pope Francis said during his Angelus message at the Vatican Aug. 22.

“To enter into communion with God, before observing the laws or satisfying religious precepts,” he continued, “it is necessary to live out a real and concrete relationship with Him.”

Pope Francis, speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John.

The passage follows the story of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, when Jesus invited the crowd “to interpret that sign and believe in Him, who is the true bread come down from heaven, the bread of life; and He revealed that the bread He will give is His body and blood,” Francis said.

“These words,” he stated, “sound harsh and incomprehensible to the ears of the people, so much so that, from that moment, many of His disciples turn back; that is, they stop following the Master.”

Even today the revelation of Jesus’ humanity, and the fact that the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body and Blood, can cause scandal, he said. It is something difficult for people to accept, he added, explaining that this is what Saint Paul calls the ‘folly’ of the Gospel in the face of those who seek miracles or worldly wisdom.”

“What sense can there be, in the eyes of the world, in kneeling before a piece of bread? Why on earth should someone be nourished assiduously with this bread?” he said.

According to Pope Francis, we should be surprised if the words of Jesus Christ do not throw us into crisis, “because we might have watered down His message,” he stated.

He also urged Catholics not to seek God in “dreams and in images of grandeur and power,” but to recognize him in the humanity of Jesus and in the humanity of other people.

“God made Himself flesh and blood: He lowered himself to the point of becoming a man like us,” the pope said. “He humbled Himself to the extent of burdening Himself with our sufferings and sin, and therefore He asks us to not seek Him outside life and history, but in relationship with Christ and with our brothers and sisters.”

He recalled that Catholics, during the recitation of the Nicene Creed at Mass on Christmas and the Annunciation, kneel during the words stating Jesus was made incarnate and became man.

Francis closed his Sunday message by encouraging Catholics to ask for the grace to be provoked and converted by Jesus’ “words of eternal life.”

“May Mary Most Holy, who bore her Son Jesus in the flesh and joined herself to His sacrifice, help us to always bear witness to our faith in our real lives,” he said.

After praying the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis greeted various groups present in St. Peter’s Square, including the priests and seminarians of the Pontifical North American College, a major seminary in Rome for seminarians of the United States and other countries.

A group of new students, the class of 2025, arrived at the college last week.

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  1. “Body and Blood, [and] Soul AND Divinity” (CCC 1374). So, with Pope Francis, how does this work IN the flow of history–as neither “dreams and images of grandeur and power,” nor “watered down” as if only OF history?

    Sts. Augustine and John Henry Cardinal Newman clarify that we worship the Triune Oneness, not a “quaternary” as with a hybrid (and fourth) Christ. What do they mean? Christ enters our human nature, but He does this by elevating human nature into His intact divine nature…

    “The union between the two natures in Christ is a personal union. It takes place in the Person of the Son of God….They are not mixed or fused with one another to form a third thing distinct from both [forming a quaternary beneath the Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. Rather they are united to one another indirectly in the Second Person of the Trinity…But in the Incarnation, the person pre-exists [!] the union of the two natures, because it is the Person of the Eternal Son of God.

    “In the Incarnation the Son of God, Who is eternal, ASSUMES TO HIMSELF [caps added] a complete human nature, a body and soul. By this union the human nature becomes the human nature of the Son of God. He is the Person existing in this human nature, the Person responsible for all its actions, the responsible Agent acting in and through the human nature in the world of men […] If we were to look at the human nature of Christ and ask […] ‘Who is he?’ then we could not give in reply the name of any human or created person, because there is no created personality present in Christ. We should have to say, ‘He is Christ, the Son of God’” (Walter Farrell OP, STM and Martin Healy, STD, in My Way of Life, Confraternity of the Precious Blood, 1952).

  2. Is God less than omnipotent and less than the Creator of the universe that we should think of him in his humanity alone?

    No, I shall not give up the revelation of God as written by St. Paul: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). Let small minds make less of God. I will have mine enlarged, like Mary’s Magnificat, which allows God to be more than my dreams, more than my imagination, more than my Church leaders will grant.

    Is God not a God of Life After Death? Let small minds think not of God as in “dreams and in images of grandeur and power,…” May our great and glorious, grandly omnipotent God reveal His glorious truth to all, especially the humbled small.

    • Meiron, if I may, you’re right in respect to the unknown God beyond comprehension of the intellect in this life, although what Peter Beaulieu addresses is knowing God within our human capacity in this life uniquely through the Person of Christ. That’s why we refer to the hidden Christ in the Eucharist. Similarly, present is the hidden God revealed to us in Christ. Knowledge of God in the beatific vision transcends any knowledge of him in this life. Although John of the Cross admits to infused knowledge in silent prayer, which Aquinas also acknowledges. Although, it’s not full knowledge. When, by Our Lord’s gracious mercy we appear before him as the Apostle John says we do not know what we shall be, what we will experience but we do know we will become like him because we shall see him as he is. That knowledge of God is entirely unique to the beatific vision through which we become entirely transformed to his likeness, although remaining conscious of our distinct person able to return with the love given us the supreme quality of love we know he deserves. A perfect union that remains distinct rather than a dissolution. As such we eternally acknowledge the source of our salvation and the object of our beatific love.

      • Those who hesitate before conceptual CLARITY (as with the Council of Nicaea about the Triune Oneness, and later with the Council of Chalcedon about the two natures of Christ in the Incarnation)—those are in company with Islam.

        ISLAM dismisses conceptual clarity (e.g., doctrinal clarity) as a raft of decadent Western-style “biases” and divisive “schools of thought.” And, instead, imagines itself as the return to the original religion prior to the “polytheism” of Christianity (the triad of the separate Father, Son and Mary—not the Holy Spirit!), and prior, too, to the apostasies, in the Old Testament, of the Hebrew people and Judaism.

        Instead of conceptual clarity, then, within Islam and its worldwide community or ummah, we have inbred and irremediable SECTARIANISM whereby even terrorism can be embraced by some sects while remaining exempt from any denunciation by others. The imaginary world of a progressive revelation with earlier messages abrogated (!) by those coming later, and all of them emanating from the totally inscrutable and arbitrary will of Allah.

        Western COUNTERPARTS include (a) the theocracy of Calvin in Geneva and his doctrine of predestination; (b) Luther’s doctrine of grace as annihilating any necessary role for free will and personal actions; (c) “progress theology” which might render ambiguous a key point in Vatican II: “The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf 1 Tim 6:14, Tit. 2:13)” ( Dei Verbum, n. 4).

        And another, possibly, is (d) the erosion of Tradition by historicism—-as in the foreseeable extermination (abrogation!) of the Latin Mass, if fully displaced by the Novus Ordo…

      • Fr. Morello,
        You are surely correct in that our natural human knowledge cannot access the beatific vision. However, in the sacraments, we participate in the grace–the supernatural life–of Christ. As Peter so aptly describes, through Christ in the Eucharist, we may access the nature of the Blessed Trinity. Aquinas’ sacramental theology posits that the sacraments are signs of God’s action, signifying what they contain and bringing about the very thing they signify; sacraments CAUSE grace. As Christ, being one and the same substance as the Father, brings through His Body (the Eucharist, by virtue of concomitance) His divinity. Truly, our natural intellect and imagination cannot discern such supernatural realities. Only the spiritual intellect, enlivened by faith and graced by grace (!), can discern and “know” that it has participated in a divine brightness unknown to nature. (From Abbot Vonier’s ‘Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist’).

        Matthew Levering has a nice essay, “Does the Paschal Mystery Reveal the Trinity?” which focuses on Aquinas’ Commentary on John. “Christ’s Paschal mystery reveals that his claim to be the Son of thee Father–his claim to be the perfect image of the Father whose love significied by his absolute gift of himself–is indeed the very truth manifested by the incarnate Word’s suffering, death, and resurrection.” (from ‘Reading John with St.Thomas Aquinas,’ p. 91, ed. Dauphinais and Levering).

  3. 1 John 2:1-6 says:
    2 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
    This goes along with John 14 and 15 linking the love of God with keeping His commands and commandments.

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