Sunday Sermon for June 10, 2012, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Year B
Readings: Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
In the first reading today Moses gathers all of the people of Israel and relates to them all of the commandments of the Lord. The people respond to Moses by stating that they will do all that the Lord had said. Moses followed this by writing the words of the Lord in a book and reading it to the people to make sure it was truly the intent of their hearts to carry out the commandments of the Lord. Once again they reply that they will heed and do everything the Lord had commanded. Moses then sacrifices a bull, sprinkles half of the blood on the altar and the other half on the people. In this way the covenant is sealed in blood.
In the Gospel our Lord is at the Passover supper, the annual ritual that commemorated the Exodus and, consequently, the covenant God made with His people through Moses. It is in this context that our Lord changed bread and wine into His own flesh and blood and commanded that we eat and drink. However, He is not asking any kind of degrading act on our part; rather, when He changes the wine into His Blood He makes the point clearly that this is the Blood of a New Covenant.
In our case, the Blood of the covenant is not sprinkled upon us as it was with Moses. Instead, we receive the Precious Blood of Jesus into our selves so that we can be cleansed of our sins. While the Blood of Jesus was shed for the remission of our sins, His gift and our reception of that gift is more than just the cleansing of our souls. The blood of the bulls at the time of Moses was sprinkled on the people because the covenant was outside of them. In our case, however, the covenant is Jesus and we are incorporated into Him, therefore, His Blood is not sprinkled on the outside, but it received on the inside because the covenant is intrinsic to us.
St. Paul, in the second reading, teaches us that Jesus entered into the Holy of Holies as our High Priest. He did not bring the blood of a bull to sprinkle on the altar, but His own Blood which was offered to His Heavenly Father for us. The rest of His Blood needed to be offered to us who are partakers of the new covenant. The people of old said that they believed in the word God spoke through Moses and that they would heed and do whatever the Lord commanded. What about us?
We know that the people of Israel were disobedient to God over and over again, just as we have been. However, we cannot use their example as a rationalization for our disobedience. Do we believe in the Word of God spoken by the Son of God? Are we really willing to heed and do everything He has told us? At the moment of our entrance into the covenant, at Baptism, we essentially stated that we would believe in what God has revealed to us. We affirmed that we would reject the lies of Satan and be faithful to the Word of God. Unfortunately, for many the words and the actions do not correspond.
Jesus is the One Who commanded us to eat His flesh and drink His Blood. He spoke the words at the Last Supper which changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood and He commanded us to continue doing this. Today, many people who call themselves Catholic do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. After stating that they would heed and do what the Lord has said, they turn around and reject, not only His words, but the Lord Himself Who is the Eucharist.
Too many people today seem to think the Scriptures are not the Word of God; rather, they seem to think they are some kind of sacred writings, but not divine, and they do not apply to us in our present age and situation. If we are going to reject the Word of God in one form, then it makes sense that we will reject the Word of God in other forms as well. A rejection of the written Word leads to a rejection of the Word made Flesh and, consequently, a rejection of His gift of Self given to us in the Blessed Sacrament. This means there is a rejection of the Covenant and, therefore, are rejection of who we are as members of that Covenant. This is critical because the Eucharist is Jesus and our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ reiterates our promise to heed and do what He has said and defines us as members of Jesus Christ, the New Covenant.
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.