Solemnity of Body and Blood of Christ

3rdJune 2018

Texts can be found here

In the first reading we have the account of a ceremony of the Jewish religion.  It is told as if it took place in the desert where the people had wandered on their way from slavery in Egypt towards the promised land.  Before entering this land Moses leads this service of re-commitment between the people and God.  They take part in a sacrificial communion involving the slaying of animal and the shedding of blood – it is symbolic of their covenant with God.  Since Christ, and from Him, we have a different understanding of sacrifice; it is no longer offering something of ours to God, but offering our whole life for the good of others – and this is what Christ did.

In the passage from Hebrews the author expresses the transformation of the covenant to a new dimension through the life and death of Jesus.  The inner sanctuary of the Jewish temple, which had been a tent in the desert period,  was entered only by a high priest who had to try to purify himself from his sins before entry.  Now in the era of the new covenant, the tent has become the realm of heaven, in which we can all participate.  It has been attained by the life and death of Christ, which He lived for others, with God’s Spirit in accord with God’s will.  The reference to the blood of Christ makes sense when we consider the Hebrew understanding of the word; for them blood was the life of the person, so the writer is saying that Christ offered Hid life to open up for us the sacred presence of God in our world.

In Mark chapter 14 there are three paragraphs about the last supper: a) the preparation for the meal (verses 12-16), then b) the foretelling of the betrayal (17-21) and c) the ritual of the meal itself (22-26); the betrayal foretelling is omitted from in our reading.  The first and the last of the three have been taken by Mark from different sources.  The account a) of the preparation is about the disciples preparing for the Passover meal; it follows a pattern used to set the scene for a significant divine event and is common in some fairy tales, but also appears at the start of chapter 11 of Mark’s gospel when two disciples get an ass for Jesus to ride on into Jerusalem. It is this first section that suggests that the meal is a Passover one.  The section c) does not really tell of a meal at all but only of the bread and the wine with Jesus’ significant words about each; it most likely is the set of words used in the ‘liturgy’ of the churches with which Mark is familiar.  The “giving thanks” gives us the word Eucharist.  It is worth noting the significance of key words: ‘body’ is not like our word which often for us means the physical part of our make-up as distinct from the psyche or the soul, but in the language of Jesus it referred to the whole person (as in our word somebody), but with an emphasis on the way I am with you – my presence; ‘blood’ clearly does mean the liquid, but the stress is on it as the life of the person or animal (and is so used in sacrifices); and the word ‘many’ is a literal translation of the language of Jesus in which there is no word for ‘everyone,’ but that  is what it implies.  For the reader – for us – the Passover section is about the covenant – the relationship between people and God and the community it forms us into

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