Sunday Sermon for June 6, 2021, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B
Readings: Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, one would expect that the focus of the readings would be on the Blessed Sacrament. In the Gospel we do have the recounting of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, but the focus of the readings seems to be on the New Covenant made in and through the Blood of our Lord. All three readings specifically mention this point.
While this may not appear to be about the Eucharist, it actually is. Jesus is the Covenant and the Eucharist is the Lord. So, in truth, the New Covenant in the Blood of Jesus and the Eucharist cannot be separated. Of course, while we tend to focus on the Eucharist being the Body of Christ, the truth is that Jesus is present in the fullness of His Person: Body, Blood, soul, and divinity. So, the Blood shed on the Cross, the Blood truly present in the Eucharist, and the Blood brought into the tabernacle of Heaven by Jesus Himself, is all the same Blood.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that the blood of goats and calves could actually cleanse the bodies of those who had been defiled. This was very important for the people of the Old Covenant because of the laws regarding ritual purity. The bodies of the people became defiled if they touched something that was unclean. There were different ways of purifying the flesh, depending on how it became defiled, but the deepest cleansing came from the blood of bulls and goats.
As we see in the first reading, the blood of bulls had a more profound meaning for the Jewish people. When Moses inaugurated the covenant between God and the people of Israel, he took the blood of the bulls that had been sacrificed and poured half of the blood on the altar and the other half he sprinkled on the people. As the covenant was established, God and the people were united not only in the sacrifice that was offered, but in the blood of the sacrifice that was sprinkled on both (the altar representing God). All this took place in the tent, or tabernacle, Moses had built based on what he had seen in his vision of Heaven.
The blood of animals, St. Paul teaches us, cannot take away sins. Animals did not sin, so their blood can cleanse the flesh, but not the soul. The Blood of Jesus, on the other hand, because it is human blood, can cleanse us of our sins. When a person comes to accept this truth, he must act on it. In other words, he must be inaugurated into the New Covenant which is made in the Blood of Jesus. St. Paul says, in the second reading, that Jesus is Mediator of a New Covenant because His death was offered to remove the transgressions committed under the old covenant.
Jesus entered into the tabernacle of Heaven, not the copy of the tabernacle as made by Moses, and offered His Blood to His Heavenly Father. His Blood is also poured out upon those who are incorporated into the New Covenant. Entrance into this covenant is accomplished through Baptism into the Person of Jesus. In doing this, we are washed clean in the Blood of Jesus, just as when our sins are absolved in the confessional after baptism.
But what happens in baptism is far greater than what occurs in the confessional. The forgiveness of sins is the same, but our incorporation into Jesus, the New Covenant, takes place only at baptism. Far more happens when we are baptized, but that is not the scope of our reflections today. The Blood that washed us clean and brought us into the Covenant is the same Blood that was brought into the Holy of Holies in Heaven and presented to our Heavenly Father. United in the Blood of Jesus, we are made children of God and this New Covenant brings about a union of life and love.
In Holy Communion we celebrate this union. If anyone questions the love God has for us, it is demonstrated in His gift of self in Holy Communion. In Heaven we will enter into God, but while we await that day, He enters into us. It shows that He is even more desirous than we are to celebrate this union we have with Him. On our part, we want to honor the Covenant we entered into, not only by keeping ourselves in the state of grace, but by striving to grow in holiness. Greater holiness means a greater capacity to receive our Lord’s love in Holy Communion and a greater capacity to give ourselves to Him. In other words, the more we love, the more profound our union with Jesus will be, now and for all eternity!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.