Just the mere mention of the word causes many people’s stomachs to rumble and their mouths to water. Now, imagine you’re starving and a chef walks in the room with a steak still sizzling on the cast iron skillet. He places it on a table in the middle of the room, cuts off a bite, holds it out on a fork and tells you to close your eyes and eat. You’re starving so you eagerly do. And it’s delicious. So having taken your one bite, he tells you to sit back down. Then the lights go out.
You can no longer see the steak, but you know it’s still there. You still hear it sizzling and the delicious aroma still fills the air. You saw the chef cut the steak and though your eyes were closed, you chewed it and tasted it, and it sure tasted like steak. Some time passes as you’re sitting there in the dark, and you no longer hear the sizzling. Do you start to wonder if the steak is still there? Probably not, right? You can still smell it. And the taste is lingering on your lips. And there’s still a little bit stuck between your teeth. So you’re pretty sure you had a bite of steak and you have no reason to believe the steak magically left the room.
Some more time passes in the dark, and now you can’t smell the steak anymore. You’ve managed to get the stuck bit out from between your teeth, and the taste is no longer on your lips. You can’t see it, hear it, smell it, feel it, or taste it. Do you wonder if it’s still there? Do you wonder if it was steak? Probably not.
But you wait longer still. And even longer. So long that you’re growing uncomfortable sitting in your chair because your legs are falling asleep. There’s no light. No sounds. No smells of any kind. The only thing you can feel is the chair you’re sitting in. Maybe you start to seriously wonder if the steak is still there. Or if the chef is still there. Maybe you start to question if it was even steak, or if the chef switched it for steak-flavored tofu while your eyes were closed and your mouth open. Finally, out of frustration, you ask the darkness, “Chef, are you still there?” “Yes!” you hear. “Is the steak still there?” “Yes!” you hear again. “I did eat a bite of steak, didn’t I?” “Yes, you ate steak,” comes the reply. Do you believe him? You have no way to prove anything you’re hearing. None of your senses can prove to you that you are hearing the chef and not someone else, that the steak is still in the room, and that what you ate was really steak. You either choose to believe the words you hear, or choose not to. Believing the voice is purely a matter of faith.
A recent survey reported that about 70% of self-identifying Catholics do not believe in the dogma of transubstantiation. There have been numerous well-documented Eucharistic miracles over the course of centuries where hosts transformed not just their nature but their substance from bread into human heart tissue, and the chalice of wine turned into human blood. Maybe the 70% of doubting Catholics believe those events, but for the hosts at every other Mass, for them, it isn’t really what Jesus said it is. Those people aren’t believing the voice in the darkness. As for that 70%, they are the Doubting Thomases in the pews. But for the other 30%, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
If you believe every word of what Jesus said in all of the Gospels, it is no mystery why people are falling away from the Catholic Church: 70% of the people in our pews have no life in them. And if that many people in the pews have no life in them, then how can we expect our Church to have life in it? How can we expect people to live their faith, to contribute their time, talent, and treasure, to be examples to the world around them, or to go out and evangelize their family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, if they have no life life in them? If 70% of the people in our pews don’t believe in the central dogma of the Catholic faith, if they don’t believe the words that came out of the mouth of Jesus Himself, then why do they still bother to call themselves Catholics? There are over 47,000 other denominations that have bread that is a mere symbol. We have the real deal, and being a Catholic Christian means believing it.
True faith is believing something without a shred of proof. Our faith is rooted in believing something just because Jesus said it, not because we can prove it with our senses. Every Mass, we have no proof that the nature of bread and wine becomes the body and blood of our risen Lord. With rare exception, the substance stays the same, but its nature changes just because Jesus said so. It is not just a matter of faith. It is our faith. Even though you have not seen, do you believe?