Sunday Scripture Readings

BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI),

JUNE 22

Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116;

Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

OUR GOOD NEWS: The Eucharist presumes and fulfills Old Testament hopes. Today's first reading describes how the ancient Israelites were established as God's special people through a covenant commitment. This covenant (agreement) was decidedly one-sided: God promised to give everything; Israel had only to accept. The text recounts its solemn enactment at the foot of Mount Sinai. Cultic ritual began with Moses reading "all the words (Ten Commandments) and ordinances of the Lord (Covenant Code or "Book of the Covenant," Exodus 20:22-23:19). After "all the people" gave assent, agreement was officially ratified through a sacrament-like act - gestures interpreted by words, conferring what they symbolized. Even in modern times "blood" retains something of its mystery, at once a sign of life and health (transfusion) as well as danger and death (bleeding). In nearly universal practice its intermingling bound people in intimate fellowship as "blood brothers." Half the blood from sacrificial animals Moses "splashed on the altar," a visible representation of the invisible God. The remainder he "sprinkled on" all assembled. Thus, through a rite involving blood, God and his people were joined in profound union. Israel owed its very existence to participation in the "the blood of the covenant." We celebrate today how Jesus instituted the Eucharist in deliberate allusion to, and fulfillment of, what happened on Sinai. He replaced Moses as the divinely chosen mediator, establishing the new covenant promised through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34), using His own blood rather than that of sacrificial animals. By sacramentally consuming the blood of the God-Man, we, the final-age people of God, are interiorly transformed through the most perfect possible union with the divinity. Jesus creates a faithful people intimately united with God by means of His sacramental blood. Mark (Gospel) suggested a whole theology of the Eucharist by having Jesus institute this sacrament while eating the Passover meal, when Jews gather annually to commemorate their ancestors' deliverance from Egyptian slavery. This foundational event began the night God "passed over" the Israelites to punish their oppressors, who sinfully resisted His will. Israel was "saved through blood" of sacrificial lambs sprinkled on doorways. In the second half of today's Gospel, Jesus' words and gestures are thus understood as mediating fullness of salvation through blood that would be His own. That night He offered "the blood of the (new) covenant," blood to be drunk rather than sprinkled. Moreover, because it was His own, this blood needed no further identification with the divinity by splashing against an altar. Finally, it is "to be poured out on behalf of the many (Semitism for "all")." Thus, the new and perfect Paschal Lamb accomplished for people of every nation what Mosaic sacrifices only imperfectly achieved for Jews. Giving of both "body" as well as "blood" sets the context of Jesus' sacrificial death, a new covenant sealed with His blood. His concluding words ("I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God") looked forward with sure, serene hope to the final-age banquet that is eternal life in God's Kingdom.

A subscription is required to access this content.

Current online and print subscribers, click here to login and view this article.

Please click here to subscribe to the St. Louis Review. You may subscribe to the online edition only or both the online and print editions.

If you already have a subscription and are still unable to access this information, please contact the St. Louis Review.

Why does the St. Louis Review require a subscription to access content online? (Click to view).

No votes yet