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“I was introduced to dog meat,” President Obama recalls in his memoir, Dreams from My Father, recounting his experiences as a young child in Indonesia under the tutelage of his Islamic stepfather, whose “knowledge of the world seemed inexhaustible.”

Obama’s stepfather fed the boy dog meat and other delicacies (snake, grasshopper) and promised to “bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share,” explaining that “a man took on the powers of whatever he ate.”

As the saying goes, you are what you eat.

“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him,” Christ says in John’s Gospel. “He who eats me will live because of me.” Hence, the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist brings “an intimate union with Christ Jesus.”

In the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine becomes Christ’s body and blood. Monsignor Peter Vaghi explains this doctrine of “transubstantiation” in The Sacraments We Celebrate: A Catholic Guide to the Seven Mysteries of Faith, the second book in his series on the Catholic faith.

“It is always good to spend some time meditating and focusing on what happens in the Eucharist,” Vaghi says. “It is, after all, the principal mystery of our Faith.”

For Catholics, when they consume the Blessed Sacrament, they are truly eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood. Not symbolically, but really. How? “It takes faith to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread,” Vaghi explains.

That’s not so hard to swallow when you think about the fact that it takes another sort of faith to believe in (say) quarks, dark matter, or subatomic particles. Reality is so much more than what our five senses can perceive.

Catholics believe that they take on the power of Christ, in a real sense, through the Eucharist. Christ promised that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life (John 6:54).

For many of Christ’s disciples, this teaching was too hard to accept. “How can he give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. Many of his disciples broke away from that time on, John’s Gospel tells us.

Granted, the outward appearance of the elements remains the same as before the consecration by the priest. Yet, with the eyes of faith, Catholics can see that in eating the Eucharist, we become like Christ, and we remain in him and Christ in us.

Rather than eating tiger meat to gain power, we should consume the Lion of Judah. Through our faith in this mystery, we gain an intimate union with Christ Jesus.

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