Father Donald Senior, CP

June 6: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Blood bond

Ex 24:3-8; Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

This Sunday the church celebrates Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, and lifts up in praise and thanksgiving the sacrament that most defines Christian life, the Eucharist. 

The readings for today bring us back to the most basic convictions of the Bible and set the stage for glimpsing the profound meaning of the Eucharist. For our Jewish ancestors, such as Moses and the Israelites on their desert trek from slavery in Egypt to a land of promise, blood was considered the very essence of human life. Without the flow of blood, the human becomes lifeless and enters the realm of the dead.  

This explains the vivid ritual described in the first reading from the Book of Exodus. To seal the covenant between the Lord and his people, Moses arranges for a “blood bond.”

The blood of young bulls (bulls themselves being primal signs of vitality) is sprinkled on the altar of God’s presence and then on the people. They share one powerful bond of life, one blood coursing between God and Israel. 

Because of God’s infinite and tender love for his people, they share in the divine life and, reciprocally, are expected to seek and to do God’s will in a spirit of love. As Moses enacts this ritual, the people exclaim: “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” 

That bond of life stemming from God’s love for his people is the deep background for the account of the Last Supper from Mark’s Gospel. The scene that Mark draws is tense. 

Jesus just entered Jerusalem the day before, climaxing his journey from Galilee to the city that was (and is) the heart of Judaism. In the preceding chapters of Mark’s narrative, Jesus repeatedly warns his disciples that in Jerusalem he would face the specter of arrest, torture and death itself.

Now, on the eve of the great feast of Passover that recalls God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare the Passover. This celebration would be his last, with his arrest in the olive grove of Gethsemane awaiting him. 

On one level, Jesus’ startling words at this meal are another prediction of his impending death: the broken bread symbolizes his body to be broken in crucifixion; the cup of wine poured out symbolizes his own blood that would be shed “for the many.” 

Jesus’ words to his disciples at this final Passover are not only a prediction of his impending death but a proclamation of its meaning.

Despite the intentions of his enemies, Jesus proclaims that his death is an act of sacrificial love for his disciples. It is a love that would not be in vain but would ultimately be celebrated anew with them in the kingdom of God. An enduring love, not death, would have the last word.

The Last Supper, which is the origin of the eucharistic liturgy, celebrates the nourishing love of God for us, the true source of our life, but also a bond of love we are to share with each other as children of God. 

This account of the Last Supper given to us by the evangelist Mark is meant as a dynamic reminder of who we are as a community of believers (“Do this in memory of me”).

When Paul was writing his first letter to the Christian community at Corinth, he learned that there was conflict at their celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, when they came together to celebrate the eucharistic ritual and to have a festive meal, the wealthier members of the community brought lavish foods and drink for themselves, while some of the poor members were embarrassed to have nothing. 

Paul is shocked and angry that the Eucharist would turn out to be an occasion to embarrass the poor instead of a celebration of unity. To make his point, Paul, too, turns to the memory of the Last Supper, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.”

To this day, the Eucharist is an unforgettable reminder of God’s love for us and our call to love each other as followers of Jesus. 


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