BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST 2012 b
Moses has been preparing his community for their entering their new homeland by instructing them about just how they should act as the holy and chosen people of God. There are many laws, instructions and liturgical observances proclaimed.
Then we hear of a liturgical experience which Moses performs to ratify that God had spoken and that the people heard and agreed to it all. Young bulls are sacrificed and Moses takes some of the blood and pours it on the altar he had constructed. The altar represents the holiness of the God Who has spoken. Moses then sprinkles some of the blood on the people representing their acceptance and agreement to what they have heard.They received the blood as a sign of their new life as God’s chosen people.
The readings for this Sunday emphasize the Eucharist as the Blood of the New Covenant. Covenants were those solemn promises of the Bible that demanded action on both sides. They were also always sealed with a sign. The rainbow was a sign of the covenant with Noah. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Abraham. The most important of these covenants, that of Sinai, accepting the Covenant of the Ten Commandments, was sealed with the sacrifice of an animal, the blood of which, or the life force, was sprinkled on the altar which symbolized the Divine, and on the gathered believers. Then a meal was shared, binding the covenantal partners together for life. This covenant mediated by Moses in the desert, marked their Passover from slavery in Egypt to freedom in a land of their own. Yearly, this covenant was celebrated with a shared meal that affirmed their union with God and one another.
At one Passover meal, Jesus passed around the wine, which he called, "my blood, the blood of the covenant”. Here the covenant blood of Christ is contrasted with the blood that Moses sprinkled against the altar and over the people.
Why was it necessary in the Bible for a covenant to be ratified in blood? The idea seems to be that the death of the victim has a finality about it that makes it, and therefore the covenant that it ratifies, irrevocable. Sacrifice is expressive of the total commitment to carry out the terms of the covenant. “No greater love has anyone than to lay down his life for his friend.”
Jesus pours out his blood for love of the world; he offers his broken body for love of the world; and then he has us consume these signs of love, to make them part of us so that we will make our own the total commitment to others expressed in the sacrifice of the cross.
We are reminded in today’s Gospel that this is the Blood of the New Covenant. Can we understand how Eucharist is a Covenant with God and what it demands of us? When we receive communion we are entering into a covenant, an agreement with God. The very reception of communion is a solemn commitment on our parts to make the Kingdom of God real in the world. The new covenant is to drink in the life of Christ in order to continue His mission to announce the Kingdom of God.
Most often we refer to the Eucharist as "communion". But we should understand that the communal aspect of the Eucharist is far more than a group of people sharing a common meal. It is the union of those who share the Body of Christ and share now the common mission to live like Christ. We are saying, as did the people of Israel, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” We have no business coming to partake of the bread or wine if we are not committed to do what Christ has called us to do!
Our sacramental communion with the Lord is fundamental to our prayer life. This desire to receive the Eucharist sets the course of our moral lives, as we reach out to others in charity and become a Eucharistic people, a people who wash the feet of their neighbors. At the same time, our desire to cultivate the presence of Jesus within us and share in his Eucharistic Presence determines the choices we make, choices to be a moral people open to the Presence of Christ not just in our statements of faith but in our living the faith in the public square.
The reception of the Eucharist is far more than a meal of fellowship. It is taking Jesus within us. When we receive communion our personal relationship with the Lord is brought to a new level. We have Jesus within us. We speak to Him. We celebrate Him.
And then, if we are truly Eucharistic, we bring Him to others. For to the degree that we bring the Presence of the Lord to others, to that degree we exercise our Catholic identity. So, when we care for the people of the slums of Nairobi, or when religious and laity throughout the world care for the suffering, or when we reach out to the hurting people of our own society, be it in our families, the DTES, our country or our world, then we are living our Catholicism, we are living the Eucharist. We bring this personal relationship with the Lord that is the heart of our faith to those who long for meaning, purpose, and for a love that does not end.
To receive the Eucharist is to enter into the New Covenant with the Lord. We are reminded as we re-celebrate our being freed from our slaveries; our addictions, our prejudices, our sin.
We do this in memory of him: we break our bodies and spill our blood; we sacrifice ourselves to be in communion with others. Christ was really present physically as a Gift from the Infinite Giver. In His Body we are re-membered (brought together as members of the Body) re-united to each other in a sacred experience.
Jesus became "mediator of a new covenant" by shedding his own blood. We follow Jesus into this new covenant by offering ourselves up totally for the well-being of our brother and sister humans.
The U.S. Bishops, in a letter entitled:
“The Eucharist and the Hungers of the Human Family” (1975), stated this:
“The quest for human freedom and justice is not optional for Catholics, nor is it a small part of the Church’s mission. Participation in the struggle for freedom and justice is a duty for each one of us, as it is a central element of the Church’s mission of redemption and liberation. In the Eucharist we find the source of our deepest commitment to the loving service of our brothers and sisters.”