The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Today, we are careful never to come into contact with blood unless protected by gloves, masks, and goggles. In the reading from Exodus, however, Moses dramatically splashes blood all over the altar and the people assembled for worship. Blood is the sign of God’s covenant with the Israelites, a powerful bond between Creator and creature. Sprinkling blood on God’s people connects them with the life force of the Lord. The reading from Hebrews shows how God remains faithful to the ancient covenant of blood, perfecting it in the bloody death of Jesus. Mercifully, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross put an end to the bloodshed. Our Eucharistic celebration is an unbloody sacrifice. As we participate in the liturgy, we share in the new covenant Jesus gives us, recorded in our reading from Mark’s Gospel: “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.”
AS REAL AS IT GETS
The “new covenant” described in Hebrews is every bit as real as the dramatic blood-splashed covenant of Exodus. Jesus transformed the covenantal experience for us, putting an end to bloody animal sacrifices. The author of Hebrews explains: “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.” Jesus died, once for all, offering his own blood in atonement for our sins. On the last night of his life, Jesus commanded us to offer bread and wine—which he transforms into his own Body and Blood—in remembrance of his perfect sacrifice. Although pouring wine from a bottle is in a different category from killing a bull and sprinkling its blood, we must never forget that the wine we offer truly becomes the actual Blood of Christ.
Jesus’ free choice to die for us on the cross perfected the long tradition of priests offering bloody sacrifices on the altar. As our reading from Hebrews tells us, “Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be.” In his death, Jesus served as both the priest and the victim, “once for all.” Jesus died for us. For all of us. He knows us each by name and raises us all to undivided, unprejudiced dignity. In doing this, Jesus makes us part of a “royal priesthood.” Under the new covenant, we are baptized into the common priesthood of Jesus and invited to make a sacrifice of our very selves. God still calls ordained priests to offer the sacrifice of Jesus’ Body and Blood every day on our altars. This is a great gift, and the focus of our solemn feast today. Our common baptismal priesthood also reminds us that each one of us participates in the great sacrifice of Jesus when we offer our love and deeds on the altar of our hearts.
Today’s Readings: Ex 24:38; Ps 116:12–13, 15–16, 17–18; Heb 9:11–15; Mk 14:12–16; 22–26