Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cycle B

Today we celebrate not only the gift of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, but the covenant sealed through Our Lord’s Precious Blood.

In today’s First Reading the old covenant that the Lord established with the people of Israel is sealed with the blood of a sacrifice. The old covenant involved the shedding and sprinkling of blood. The altar represented God, and by sprinkling the blood on it and the people a communion of life was established that would be maintained for as long as they followed the precepts stipulated. The Lord didn’t need to do it, but, after the sins of humanity, the people of Israel did. That covenant was renewed repeatedly in Jewish worship through the sacrifice of animals and the shedding of their blood, with the hope of atoning for having transgressed the covenant. This covenant and the sacrificed blood that sealed were just a foreshadowing of the covenant to come.

When God became man he chose to become that sacrifice, to shed his own blood in order to establish a new and everlasting covenant. If the blood of animals produced a spiritual benefit for those who were offering it, today’s Second Reading reminds us how much more spiritual benefit comes from the blood of Christ, who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world. Moses in the First Reading ratified the covenant with the blood of bulls; the Second Reading reminds us that Jesus has ratified the new covenant with his own blood. It’s one thing to sacrifice something of value and make amends; it’s a whole other level to sacrifice your very self, body and blood. In ancient religions sacrifices were made and then partaken of, eating the food or animal sacrificed, to express a communion with the deity to which the sacrifice was being made.

In today’s Gospel we see Our Lord in the Last Supper establishing a new and eternal covenant that would be sealed with his sacrifice on the Cross. Our Lord established the sacrament of his Eucharist in an unbloody way, at the Last Supper, enabling his disciples to partake of his body and blood sacramentally so that they wouldn’t have to physically. However, that didn’t preclude Our Lord from physically sacrificing himself on the Cross. We celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ because they are now the one sacrifice to restore and maintain our communion with God. We offer and receive this sacrifice in an unbloody manner, under the appearance of bread and wine, in part because Our Lord didn’t want our squeamishness to keep us from coming to him as the Bread of Life. We remember today that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ so that we never forget that a sacrifice has been made once and for all the forgiveness of sins: our sins, not his.

Our Lord has always been faithful to the covenant. Some people try “cut a deal” with Our Lord when they really want something: “Lord, give/do this and I’ll give/do that.” The covenant Our Lord sealed with his Precious Blood is meant to keep us happy, holy, and secure. We break that covenant when we sin, but Our Lord doesn’t back out of the deal. Let’s keep up our end of the bargain.

Readings: Exodus 24:3–8; Psalm 116:12–13, 15–16, 17–18; Hebrews 9:11–15; Mark 14:12–16, 22–26. See also Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

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Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cycle C

The First Reading today shows us a foreshadowing of the gift we are celebrating today. Abram, who we know today as Abraham, our father in faith, had just rescued his nephew Lot from kings who had raided where he was living and captured him. Melchizedek was a mysterious figure in the Old Testament: he almost came out of nowhere to bless Abram for the rescue, and Abram paid a special tribute to Melchizedek for the blessing. A priest brings forth bread and wine and a blessing, and Abram gives him a tribute…Does this sound familiar? Does it remind you of anything you do on Sundays? I’m not referring to the collection plate.

In the letter to the Hebrews we see the connection between Melchizedek and Christ: Christ is that priest who brings bread and wine, but above all a blessing, a transforming one or, as the theologians say and some zealous catechists, a transubstantiating one: through Christ’s blessing that bread and wine become him: his body and blood, soul and divinity: the Eucharist.

In Abram’s case this blessing was not just for him, but for his descendants, and in the Second Reading today, Paul tells the Corinthians that he is just a bearer of the blessing too. Paul says, “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,” and then he recalls the words priests says every time Mass is celebrated over the bread and wine so that they become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of Jesus until he comes, as St. Paul tells the Corinthians, and, as we pray in Mass, until he comes in glory. Every celebration of the Eucharist is a sacrifice. We offer up the sacrifice of the Son of God.

We proclaim Jesus’ death by Holy Communion because we are eating the sacrifice. Christ is not just the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, as we prayed in the Psalm today: he is the sacrifice as well. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews explains why with Christ’s sacrifice of himself the Old Testament priesthood is no longer needed. Christ is carrying out the real priesthood in Heaven: “For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).

How does that priesthood and sacrifice reach us? Every Mass, every Holy Communion. Every time we celebrated the Eucharist we present to God the sacrifice of his Son. Christ’s priesthood is made present through his priest, and the priest is the instrument Jesus uses to make bread and wine become Jesus’ body and blood offered in sacrifice for the whole world. We partake of that sacrifice for our world: my life, my family, my friends.

Jesus has given us our priest, his blessing, the bread and wine, our very selves, created by God, redeemed by God in Christ. Most importantly, he has given us his very self, under the appearance of bread and wine. What can we give him in return? Every Mass we bring up the gifts, gifts that God has given us, a blessing is said over them, and a few moments later, those gifts through the priest’s words and God’s power become God himself.

Jesus in the Gospel today teaches us to bring everything to Him for His blessing:

  1. Our sicknesses, spiritual and physical, so he can bless us with healing, spiritual or physical, as he sees best for our souls.
  2. Our doubts and questions, so that he can teach us about the Kingdom of God.
  3. Our problems–so many people, so late, so little food, what do we do?’–so that he can suggest a solution.
  4. Our contribution and effort, big or small, toward solving that problem, even if it seems against all odds: a few loaves and fish, a lot of needy people, so that he can bless our efforts and make them fruitful. Our time, talent, and treasure.
  5. Our thanks for his blessings: twelve wicker baskets full of them.

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us that he never intended for us to go it alone. When he ascended into Heaven, he promised he would be with is until the end of the age. He remains with us through the Eucharist. He didn’t tell the disciples, “send them off, tell them to read a book, go see a doctor, apologize that the catering was not arranged.” They came to Christ and received a blessing that transformed them and others. If you don’t see the blessings in your life, ask Jesus to show you. He is in every tabernacle so that you can approach him and ask him for guidance, healing, strength, direction. He comes into your heart every time you receive Holy Communion worthily.

He may ask something of you that makes no sense, that is hard to understand, that seems too much for your strength, beyond your means, but he will bless it. He will transform it into twelve wicker baskets full of blessings. They may not be the blessings you expected—the disciples didn’t expect at the end of the day that they would have twelve baskets full of food and thousands of people fed—but Jesus will help you to count your blessings. Let’s offer Jesus our whole life so that he can bless it and transform it.

Readings: Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:1–4; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; Luke 9:11b–17. See also Solemnity of Corpus Christi17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B2nd Week of Easter, Friday1st Week of Advent, Wednesday, and Tuesday after Epiphany.

Solemnity of Corpus Christi

In the Gospel for today’s solemnity Our Lord seals a new covenant with his own blood. The old covenant, recalled in today’s First Reading, involved the shedding and sprinkling of blood; the altar represented God, and by sprinkling the blood on it and the people a communion of life was established and would be maintained as long as they followed the precepts that were stipulated. The Lord didn’t need to do it, but after the sins of humanity the people of Israel did. That covenant was renewed over and over again in Jewish worship through the sacrifice of animals and the shedding of blood, and the violations atoned for.

That covenant was just a foreshadowing of the covenant to come. When God became man he chose to become that sacrifice, to shed his own blood in order to establish a new and everlasting covenant. If the blood of animals produced a spiritual benefit for those who were offering it, the Second Reading today reminds us how much more spiritual benefit from the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of himself for the sins of  the world. Moses in the First Reading ratified the covenant with the blood of bulls; the Second Reading reminds us that Jesus has ratified the new covenant with his own blood. It’s one thing to sacrifice something of value in order to make amends; it’s a whole other level to sacrifice your very self, body and blood.

We celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ because they are now the one sacrifice to restore and maintain our communion with God. We offer and receive this sacrifice in an unbloody manner, under the appearance of bread and wine, in part because Our Lord didn’t want our squeamishness to keep us from coming to him as the Bread of Life. We remember today that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ so that we never forget that a sacrifice has been made once and for all the forgiveness of sins: our sins, not his. Today let’s remember the love for us that powered that sacrifice.

Readings: Exodus 24:3–8; Psalm 116:12–13, 15–16, 17–18; Hebrews 9:11–15; Mark 14:12–16, 22–26.