Feast of the ‘Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ’:
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Blood of the New Covenant.”
The first reading describes the ceremony that ratified the Old Covenant. If we understand what happened at the foot of Mount Sinai, it becomes much easier to understand the full meaning of the Eucharist.
The second reading shows the superiority of the ‘New Covenant’ over the ‘Old One’.
The Gospel tells us of the love of Christ who gave up his life to seal the New and Final Covenant in his blood.
Celebrating the Eucharist empowers us to keep living out this mystery in our daily lives, and living it ever more deeply. By doing so we are assured that just as God raised Jesus from the dead into eternal life, God will do the same for us.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
In ancient times, individuals and peoples often entered into solemn and complicated rites. The people of Israel used to seal an alliance with the blood of animals offered up in sacrifice to God. The reading of today must be seen and understood in this cultural context. It tells us how, one day at the foot of Sinai, God decided to make a covenant with Israel. He promised to protect and defend his people provided they swore to observe his commandments.
To solemnize this oath of reciprocal loyalty, they performed a rite. Moses informed the people of Israel the conditions imposed by the Lord; he explained his precepts and commandments and asked Israel if they were ready to observe them all the days of their lives. The people listened with attention and then uttered their assent: “We accept the proposal of the Lord”.
In the Sinai Covenant the entire Hebrew people enter into an agreement with YHWH. Moses then put into writing the words of God that were the foundation of the pact and prepared the necessary things for the ceremony: he built an altar with twelve standing stones. The altar represents God, and the twelve stones stand for the twelve tribes of Israel. When all is ready, he tells some young men to slaughter the animals as a sacrifice to the Lord. Moses takes the blood of the victims and pours half of it on the altar (representing God) and the other half he sprinkles over the stones (representing the people).
What is the meaning of this rite? The pouring of blood signifies that from that moment God and Israel are like ‘one person’, as if the same blood flowed in them. To attack one was to attack the other. They are joined forever as one. The Hebrews knew that as blood is poured out from anything living, life flows out as well. Blood stands for life itself. The altar is God’s table; whatever is placed on it belongs to God. The blood poured on the altar is given over to God, becoming a symbol of his own life. Being sprinkled with this blood means being joined to God.
Blood was the sealing factor in the covenant. Blood meant “take my life if I break this oath.” It was a very sobering moment in the covenant ceremony. As the people stood before Moses and received the sprinkling of blood at Mount Sinai, they must have remembered the earlier blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt. If this covenant were ever broken, someone would pay for it with his life. At Mount Sinai that day, could anyone have dreamed it would be the Lord?
How was this covenant kept? We know that there was a succession of betrayals by the people of Israel. The protection of God was conditional on Israel being loyal and faithful; so when they failed to keep their promises, God stopped defending them and left them to the mercy of their enemies.
Was this the end of the dialogue between God and humankind? No! God is never discouraged and is not put off by our frailty or fickleness. He promises through the prophets that one day he will make a ‘New Covenant’ and that humans will finally be loyal and faithful to it (Jer 31:31-34).
The ‘New Covenant’ that is, drawn up in the Eucharist also demands our commitment and our loyalty. The performance of the rite does not make it effective; it requires ‘faith and the acceptance of what the rite signifies’.
Our interior transformation does not depend on the number of times we receive Holy Communion but on the faith with which we receive it. The effectiveness of the Eucharist is bound up with the firmness of our decision to allow ourselves to be moulded by Christ and to identify ourselves every day more and more with him in the sacrament.
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18.
The Psalm is a thanksgiving song. The sacrifices in the Temple were an expression of gratitude for God’s goodness. The cup of thanksgiving anticipates the cup used in the Eucharist. The death of the ‘faithful one’, precious in the eyes of the Lord, looks forward to Jesus’ death and the positive attitude to death he made possible.
The communion between God and humans was re-established through a rite that had the same meaning as the one performed by Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai. The High Priest alone entered the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the “Holy of Holies” where God was thought to be present, and there he poured the blood of the renewal of the covenant.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews compares this gesture of the High Priest to that of Christ and says that the ‘New Covenant’ is greater than the old one for several reasons.
First of all the blood used in the old covenant was that of rams and calves, while Christ offered up his own blood. The High Priest had to repeat the rite every year, because it had limited effectiveness. Christ, instead, shed his blood once for all because it has an infinite value and has purified all people of their sins.
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26.
Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his twelve close friends. Meals have been an important symbol for Jesus as an expression of God’s love. When Jesus ate all were welcome. At the Last Supper, Jesus does something never done before. He gives himself to people as food and drink.
As all good Jews would have done, Jesus ate the Passover meal. The New Testament gives us several accounts of it and of the institution of the Eucharist. When Jesus celebrated the Passover, he gave a new meaning to his forthcoming death.
His death could have been considered an unfortunate accident or a sign of weakness or even folly. In fact, his death was his own free decision, a sacrifice of his own life and a sign of his total giving of himself to the Father’s will and for all people. Through it the ‘New Covenant’ foretold by the prophets was sealed, no longer in the blood of animals, but in the ‘Most Holy Body and Blood’ of the Son of God.
During that special meal, a blessing was spoken over the bread before it was broken and shared. A similar prayer was said over the wine that was to be shared by all. Such prayers could have been what we would call grace before meals. However, when Jesus prays such prayers they take on a very special meaning.
To agree to share a meal with somebody is to agree to share his or her love with them and to commit oneself to that person’s values. Food shared expresses unity. That is why during the Last Supper Jesus shows affection for his betrayer to help him realize the love he has for him and to invite him to repent.
Jesus’ whole life had been a witness to God’s love and he invites others to respond in their turn with love. The wine that he blesses and shares is his own blood freely spent for others. Through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, these very ordinary signs of bread and wine become a message important for all times and for all peoples. They become signs and instruments of God’s unconditional love made visible in the life and death of Jesus.
At the heart of the ‘New Covenant’ is Christ’s love for the Father and us. He gives himself totally to the Father and to us. He challenges us to do the same. When we eat and drink the bread and wine of the Eucharist, we are saying “Yes” to Jesus just as our faith ancestors said “Yes” to Moses. They promised to obey the Old Covenant Law. We, however, promise to love God and our neighbour above all else, as Jesus did. This is the ‘New Covenant’.
The mystery of the Eucharist is to be lived out through loving God and one another. Celebrating the Eucharist empowers us to keep living out this mystery in our daily lives, and living it ever more deeply. By doing so we are assured that just as God raised Jesus from the dead into eternal life, God will do the same for us.
To share in the Eucharistic meal is commit ourselves to “do this in memory” of him. That is to give our lives fully and freely in love for him and in the humble service to the poor and the excluded in our society.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the Sunday celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ , Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … God decided to make a covenant with Israel. He promised to protect and defend his people provided they swore to observe his commandments. To solemnize this oath of reciprocal loyalty, they performed a rite. Moses informed the people of the conditions imposed by the Lord; he explained his precepts and commandments and asked Israel if they were ready to observe them all the days of their lives. The people listened with attention and then uttered their assent: “We accept the proposal of the Lord”. By our Rite of Baptism we too have accepted the proposal of the Lord.
Mon. … The Sinai Covenant came with conditions imposed by the Lord. Moses explained God’s precepts and Commandments to his people who attested their consent. Notwithstanding the many betrayals by his ‘chosen people’, God promises through his prophets that one day he will make a ‘New Covenant’ with humankind. Do we, as Christians fully understand God’s Law as defined by the Church? How many times a week do we betray God? Is it willingly or is it through ignorance?
Tues. … As the people stood before Moses and received the sprinkling of blood at Mount Sinai, they must have remembered the earlier blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt. If this covenant were ever broken, someone would pay for it with his life. At Mount Sinai that day, could anyone have dreamed it would be the Son of God?
Wed. …The Law of the ‘New Covenant’ drawn up in the blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ is not written on ‘stone tablets’ but is written into our hearts in the universal language of God’s love. “I give you a new commandment: love one another just as I have loved you.” Jn 13:34.
Thurs. …The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that the ‘New Covenant’ re-established in the “Blood of the ‘Lamb’”, namely Christ has infinite value and has purified all people of their sins. Do we as Christians take Christ’s gift of redemption for granted? What have we done to adequately show our thanksgiving for this gift of eternal life?
Frid. … Jesus’ whole life had been a witness to God’s love and he invites all of us to respond by the way we live our lives and love one another. Our lives could never be compared to Christ, so lets start simple. Can we truly say that this week we have been a witness to God’s love?
Sat. … Jesus has given us a living sign of his love in the Eucharistic Feast. We have the opportunity of becoming ‘One’ in Body and Blood with our Lord, to draw from his strength and grace for our spiritual development to bring us closer to God. Do we “Do this in memory of him?” Do we give up our lives fully in love for him? Jesus said: “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.”
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Lord Jesus Christ, You gave us the Eucharist as the memorial of Your suffering and death. May we offer to our Father in heaven and to our brothers and sisters a solemn pledge of undivided love poured out in loving service to all those in need.
May our worship of the sacrament of Your Body and Blood help us to experience the salvation You have won for us and the peace of the kingdom where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.