Sunday, June 7, 2015, is the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The readings will be Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15 and Mark 14:12-16, 22-26.
From the beginning, God has desired to be in relationship with us. The first two readings talk about covenants that God formed with human beings to seal that friendship. The Old Testament reading from Exodus recounts the first covenant formed between God and the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai, a reciprocal agreement between divinity and humanity with Moses as the mediator. At that time, covenants were considered to be bonds as tight as blood relationships in which partners were held responsible for the welfare of one another. Covenants were officially sealed by preparing an altar of sacrifice and slaughtering young bulls. A priest or mediator, like Moses, then sprinkled half of the blood on the altar and half on the people. The blood represented both life and death, and a willingness to shed one’s blood for the welfare of the other. Our second reading, from the letter to the Hebrews, describes the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant with the creation of a New Covenant, one sealed with the blood of Christ himself (the blood of the one who is both God and human.) Christ adds a new element to the covenant between God and humans “obtaining eternal redemption.”
The feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the mystery of Jesus’ ongoing and intimate presence among us in the Eucharist. In a way we cannot fully understand, Jesus invites us to remain physically connected to him, sharing in a Eucharistic (thanksgiving) meal where we receive his body and blood in the form of bread and wine. This Eucharist took place for the first time, as recounted in next Sunday’s Gospel reading, while Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover meal on the night before his death. The Passover feast recalled God’s faithfulness to his covenant with the people of Israel, through God’s insistence that the angel of death ‘pass over’ the Israelites as it afflicted their Egyptian captors. On the day after this first Eucharist, Jesus would die on the cross offering himself as the sacrificial lamb of the New Covenant. The Eucharist is an ongoing sign of God’s covenant of love with us.
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