Sunday Sermon for June 3, 2018, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Year B
Readings: Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
As we celebrate this glorious Solemnity of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist, the readings today focus on two things: blood and covenant. These two are inseparable from one another in the sense that covenants are sealed in blood. This is why, in the first reading, Moses took the blood from the bulls and sprinkled it on the altar and on the people. The altar belongs to God, so this signifies God’s half of the covenant; the sprinkling on the people demonstrates that the people have entered into the covenant.
You and I have also been incorporated into a covenant. Ours is the new and everlasting covenant. We entered into this covenant through baptism. Now, you might look at what was said previously and wonder why, if covenants are sealed in blood, why are we baptized with water? Where is the blood of the covenant?
For us, the covenant is the person of Jesus Christ into Whom we have been incorporated through baptism. Of course, He poured out His Blood for us on the Cross but, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, He took that Blood into the sanctuary in Heaven. The High Priest of the Jewish people had to offer a bull because of the sin of Aaron, the first High Priest, who had fashioned the golden calf and led the people into false worship. The blood from that bull is the blood Moses used when ratifying the covenant.
The blood of a bull, however, was not able to remove the sins of the people. St. Paul tells us the blood of bulls and goats could sanctify the flesh of the people, thus making them ritually pure, but it could not take away the sins because it was not bulls and goats that sinned. Because human persons sinned, it was necessary that human blood be shed for the forgiveness of sins.
Moses splashed the blood of the bull on the altar, but that altar and the sanctuary where the altar was situated was a mere copy of the real one. Since the true tabernacle is Heaven, there was no way Moses could bring the blood there, so he sprinkled it on the object that was most closely connected with God.
Jesus, on the other hand, was able to take the Blood He shed for us into Heaven itself. He presented that Blood to Almighty God, not to something representing God. Because it was human Blood that was shed, it is able to remove sin and, as St. Paul says, “cleanse our consciences from dead works to the worship of God.”
The worship of the Jewish people was modeled after what Moses saw in his vision of the Heavenly worship. Jesus is God and, therefore, what He did was not an imitation, it was and is the actual worship of Heaven. So, while the Jewish sacrifices constituted true worship offered to God by doing something on earth that was a close as possible to what was done in Heaven, the sacrifice of Jesus is the worship of Heaven and constitutes a more perfect form of worship because it is the paradigm Moses saw and imitated.
Still, one might wonder, if we are baptized into Jesus with water, where is the sprinkling of the blood? This is what takes place at Mass and, for each of us, in the reception of Holy Communion. So, the sacrifice of Jesus is presented to His Father in Heaven and it is given to each person who receives worthily the Body and Blood of our Lord.
The point of Jesus entering into Heaven with the Blood of His sacrifice demonstrates Him to be our High Priest. Being God, He has a priesthood that lasts forever. For this reason, there is only one sacrifice offered by the one High Priest. That sacrifice will continue to be offered until the end of the world, not again and again, but one sacrifice offered continuously.
In His mercy, our Lord has given us a means by which this is done sacramentally. This means the same sacrifice is being offered, but our Lord is not having to continue suffering or being physically crucified. It also means we can receive, not just a piece of His flesh, but His entire Person in Holy Communion. At the Last Supper, as we hear in the Gospel, Jesus gave us this gift so we would not merely be sprinkled externally, but we would receive His Blood into ourselves and be cleansed internally.
The external sprinkling of the bull’s blood sanctified the flesh of the people, the receiving of our Lord’s Blood sanctifies the souls of those who are incorporated into the New Covenant; the Covenant is the Person of Jesus Christ.
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.