The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
2018 – Cycle B
Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
“This is the blood of the covenant…”
“This is my blood of the covenant…”
The two declarations are the same but for one word. A word that puts them worlds apart in meaning. “This is the blood of the covenant…” That is quite different than saying, “This is my blood of the covenant…”
In both cases blood seals a covenant, an agreement if you will, between God and Israel in the Exodus story and between God and humanity through the cross. The difference is that the blood that Moses spoke about was forcefully and deliberately taken from animals that were slaughtered against their will for sacrifice. The blood that Jesus speaks about is his own blood, his own life that he freely gives for us.
Blood sacrifice is central to the story of our salvation. Did it not begin with Abel’s murder and his blood crying out from the earth? Innocent life taken. Blood sacrifice is central to salvation because it calls for a total commitment. “We will do everything that the Lord has told us”. Twice the people of Israel answer. But, as you remember, the entire desert experience toward the Promised Land is riddled with infidelity after infidelity. The ‘golden calf’ episode. The constant complaining. The desire to go back to Egypt and slavery because there they had three square meals a day and a roof over their head. Slavery can often look more appealing than freedom. Freedom entails responsibility and commitment: “We will do everything that the Lord has told us”.
Consider the amount of complaining we do about everything and everyone. How many ‘golden calves’ have you and I worshiped over the years that we have created from aspects of our own lives? How many of us would rather live in an enslaved life that is comfortable and known, we call this sin, than enter into an experience of freedom that is unfamiliar, we call this life in Christ? Slavery can often look more appealing than freedom. Freedom entails responsibility and commitment.
Consider how many slaves stayed on the plantations of this country after the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery was familiar. Freedom and its unknown circumstances are fearful. Consider the images of the prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps when they were freed. The look in their eyes. Was freedom possible?
We prefer what is known to what is unknown. Few of us are real explorers of life and that includes the spiritual life. We humans play it safe. God doesn’t.
The fear, the lack of trust, the infidelities of Israel are the fears and infidelities of our age. We live in a period characterized by fear. Where people instill fear in each other and against each through lies, prejudices, fake news, bigotries, and untruths resulting in the violence that we inflict upon each other to gain power, the original sin.
Thus “This is the blood of the covenant…” had to become “This is my blood of the covenant…”
This self–giving of God in Jesus Christ. This blood sacrifice for us is at the heart of the Eucharist because we cannot free ourselves. In his crucifixion Jesus displaces fear with trust in God. He doesn’t expect and wait for proof. He offers commitment and trust in promises made by God even when he can’t see or experience future hope. Jesus accepts and takes upon himself all the violence we inflict on each other because being in the grip of sin and death we cannot free ourselves. That is why the Letter to he Hebrews asks, “how much more will the blood of Christ,… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”?
How can you and I, how can humanity, respond to such a self–less act of God?
Recall God’s first words spoken to us through the prophet Joel every Ash Wednesday: “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart,…Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. The only response to such a self–giving blood sacrifice is a heart and life open to gratefully receive what is offered. This is seen and experienced in the simple gesture of open hands outstretched to receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion; hands outstretched to accept The Blood of Christ offered for our salvation.
We can join ourselves and participate in the one sacrifice Jesus offered but in essence we are only recipients: “a death has taken place for deliverance…those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”