One way of explaining this, is to think of the physical appearance of Communion as a screen for what it really is, for if we saw Communion as what it really looks like, we would be dazzled and afraid to receive it. But Jesus wanted to come to all of us in this very intimate manner so He disguishes Himself as the bread and wine that our senses see but our faith tells us is truly Jesus..
That some have problems with this doctrine is not a new situation. As a matter of fact, when Jesus first told His Disciples and followers that He planned to come to us in this manner, there was a loud 'hue and cry'.
Jesus probably knew they would object so at first, He broached the subject lightly . He told them:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:32-33)Well, OK, they could live with that - after all, they all knew about Moses and the manna from Heaven. It was just regular food although God gave it to them. Actually, some food that Jesus would give them sounded nice so they requested Him to give it to them:
Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. (vs 34)Then, Jesus dropped the bombshell on them:
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (vs 35-40)Now, this, His Listeners had a major problem with. The Bible describes them as murmuring among themselves and saying how could Jesus be the Bread from Heaven when they knew He was the son of Joseph.
And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? (vs 42)But Jesus did not say, (as He had so often said) - "You have misunderstood me - I just meant this was to be a symbol". No He did not say that. Instead, He stood His ground on this one, confirming over and over that, yes, He had meant it as they had understood it, literally!
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (vs 52)Things were beginning to become heated. We know from the above that those listening to Jesus had, indeed, understood Him to be talking LITERALLY. What would Jesus do? His Disciples, some of whom had followed Him for a while, were becoming very disgusted.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. (vs 53-58)Scripture says that His Listeners got disgusted and said:
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? (vs 60)And that many stopped being His Followers because they could not accept what He was teaching.
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (vs 66)Note, these were DISCIPLES who had followed Him - not just casual onlookers. Yet, many left because they understood Jesus to be talking literally. Now, the $ 64,000 question: If they had misunderstood Jesus and HE had only meant it figuratively or as a symbol, why did Jesus let most of His Disciples leave in disgust when, in His Ministry, He was LOOKING for disciples? He never hesitated to tell them they have misunderstood Him in other places in Scripture. But here, He ALLOWED THEM to walk away.
"The Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins and which the Father in his loving kindness raised again."
"The Lord did not say: This is a symbol of my body, and this is a symbol of my blood, but rather: This is my Body and my Blood. He teaches us not to look to the nature of what lies before us and is perceived by the senses, because the giving of thanks and the words spoken over it have changed it into flesh and blood."
"In order to receive Your Lord, you need not undertake long journeys nor cross stormy seas and high mountains; Jesus Christ is at your door. You have but to go to the church and you will find Him. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose in receiving Communion." (Fr Michael Muller, C.SS.R., THE BLESSED EUCHARIST)