The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – June 2, 2024

 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – June 2, 2024

Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

 

Theme: From the Old Covenant to the New Covenant

Last Sunday, we commemorated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, one God in Three Persons. Today, we celebrate the solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, popularly known as Corpus Christi. The first reading we heard discussed the ratification of the Old Covenant between God and the people of Israel through the bloody sacrifice at Mount Sinai. The sacred author of the second reading lets us understand that the people of Israel transgressed the covenant commitments, and as a result, they were all under the curse of death. Then, Jesus’ death took place for deliverance from transgression under this first covenant. Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant so that all people who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15). We heard in the Gospel passage how Jesus celebrated the Jewish feast of Passover for the last time before his arrest and death, which introduced us to a New Covenant with God through his blood shed on the cross.

Let us first analyze our first reading to comprehend our Gospel and second readings better. The covenant ceremony, which had two parts, corresponds to the two parts of the Christian liturgy of the Mass. The first part is the rite of God’s words. Moses read the words and ordinances of God to the people. All of them unanimously accepted to do everything the Lord had told them (v. 3). Likewise, in the first part of the Mass, the liturgy of the Word of God, we listen to the Scripture readings, and through our responses, “Thanks be to God” (for the first and second readings), responsorial psalms, and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” (for the Gospel,) we express our acceptance to do what God speaks to us. The second part is the sacrificial ritual and blood ceremony. Moses sent the “young men of the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls as communion offerings to God (v. 5). Then, he splashed blood on the altar (representing God’s presence) and on the people. This ceremony ratified the covenant between God and the Israelites (vv. 7-8).  This blood ceremony was followed by the meal that Moses and the elders of Israel ate with God at Sinai (see vv. 9-11 that the lectionary has omitted.) This alludes to the Holy Communion we receive at Mass. So, this covenant ceremony, with its two distinct parts, mirrors the structure of the Mass, highlighting the importance of both the liturgy of the Word of God and the liturgy of the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass.

Note that blood symbolizes two things here. First, blood symbolizes kinship. We identify our biological brothers and sisters as our “blood brothers and sisters.” Blood is used to denote kinship. So, in this ceremony, the people of Israel and God share the same blood and become now family. The second meaning of the blood is death. Note that the blood that Moses sprinkled on both the altar and the Israelites came from slain animals. By accepting the sprinkling of this blood, the people of Israel vowed to keep their covenant commitment lest their blood be shed like those animals.

However, throughout history, the people of Israel have failed to keep their covenant commitment, as the sacred author of Hebrews reveals in our second reading. The consequence of their transgression is death as they swore in the blood ceremony of their covenant with God at Sinai. We, too, fail to keep our baptismal commitments every day. What, then, has saved the Israelites and all of us from the curse of death? The sacred author of our second reading tells us that Christ’s death does. He says that Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, and his death delivers us from transgressions under the first covenant so that we, who are called, may receive the promised eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15). Our Gospel passage, then, recounts how Jesus inaugurated this new covenant.

Our Gospel story is found in chapter 14 of Luke’s Gospel. It immediately follows the story of Betrayal by Judas (vv. 10-11) and precedes the story of Peter’s Denial Foretold (vv. 27-31). Its form is a narrative story with prophetic and allegorical images. It tells the Jewish feast of Passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples for the last time before he was arrested and crucified. The story has two parts: The preparation for the Passover celebration (vv. 12-16) and the Passover celebration itself (vv. 22-26). In between, the lectionary has omitted the story of Jesus announcing his betrayer (vv. 17-21).

In the first part, Jesus sent two disciples and gave them some indications on preparing the Passover meal. These two disciples were instructed to go into the city, follow a man carrying a jar of water who would meet them wherever he entered, and say to the house’s master that their Teacher Jesus was asking for the guest room where he may eat the Passover with his disciples. Then, the house’s master would show them a large upper room furnished and ready that they needed to prepare for the Last Supper meal. These two disciples went, found, and did everything as Jesus described. Mark portrays Jesus here as a Teacher and Prophet. This first part of the Gospel teaches us that the liturgy of the Mass should be very well prepared. Each Mass that we attend is our memorable encounter with Jesus. Therefore, we are called to prepare ourselves interiorly and exteriorly to meet our Lord, prepare the Church where the celebrations take place, and prepare the liturgy of the Mass itself.

The second part of our Gospel describes how Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. At the table, Jesus gave bread to his disciples, saying, “This is my body,” and for wine, he said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Let us pay attention to Jesus’ words here. He does not say that the bread and wine are like his body and blood; instead, he says that the bread and wine are his Body and Blood. Jesus’ words and actions here allude to the Sinai Passover ritual we saw in our first reading. In the old ritual, Moses used the blood of animals to ratify the covenant between the Israelites and God. Here, Jesus used his own Blood shed on the cross to seal the new covenant between the whole world and God. Before, we were under the curse of death of the old covenant because of our transgressions.  Now, Jesus’ precious Blood redeems us from this curse of death and makes us enter into a new Covenant with God. So, Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. The gifts of bread and wine we bring at each Mass become “not like,” but Jesus’ Body and Blood. When we receive the Holy Communion, we receive Christ. When we do the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we adore Jesus himself. The Holy Eucharist in the Tabernacle is the real presence of Christ.

May the liturgy of this Mass enable us to believe in the Holy Eucharist as the real presence of Christ, our spiritual food, and our transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

 

 

 

 

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