The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH WILL BE SHED FOR MANY.
This Sunday is the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). It is our celebration of praise and thanksgiving for Christ's gift of himself to us, in covenant bond and sacrificial offering to the Father, for our sins. In order to more fully understand the significance of this gift, we should appreciate the history of God's covenant relationship with his chosen people and the rite of the high priest's annual atonement for sins through the shedding of an unblemished animal's blood and sprinkling upon the people. Today's readings help us understand that.
In our first reading (Exodus 24:3-8), we hear the ancient ritual of Moses and the Israelite's ratifying their covenant relationship with God through the sacrificial shedding of blood, "Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.'" This was the first covenant, what we Christians refer to as the Old Covenant or Old Testament.
When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, "We will do everything that the LORD has told us." Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his."
In our Gospel reading (Mark 14:12-16, 22-26)
, we hear how Jesus instituted his New Covenant or New Testament so that sins may be forgiven. At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared to offer himself in place of the unblemished lamb as sacrifice for the sins of all people - for all eternity. "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many."
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 9:11-15)
, we hear reference to the rite of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), where the high priest, once each year, would go behind the veil of the sanctuary and offer sacrifice to God in atonement for the sins of the people. Then he would sprinkle blood of the sacrifice on the people as a sign of their covenant with God. The author of Hebrews draws a direct corollary between this practice and the act of Jesus who "offered himself unblemished on the cross" - not once each year, but "once for all" - for all people and for all eternity.
Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
Every Mass we participate in is a reenactment of that sacrificial offering of Jesus as the unblemished lamb in atonement for our sins.
Jesus has instituted this sacrament of Eucharist, the true presence of his body and blood, for our benefit, so that we could forever be nourished and strengthened by his saving presence within us. The significance of this act directly connects us not only with the new covenant of the cross, but also with Moses and that first covenant relationship with God on Mount Sinai.
- Click HERE to read and reflect on the full readings for Sunday, June 3
- Click HERE to hear what Bishop Robert Barron has to say on this feast