FIRST READING Exodus 24:3-8
When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.”
SECOND READING Hebrews 9:11-15
Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
GOSPEL Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
“Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.” It is no wonder that many people in the first century of Christianity thought of Christians as cannibals! The focus of this great Solemnity of Corpus Christi is on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This Solemnity is an echo of Holy Thursday, when we celebrated the memory of the Last Supper.
The first reading today is from the Book of Exodus and is about the Covenant between God and the Chosen People, with Moses acting as the spokesperson for the Chosen People. The way in which such a covenant was expressed was by sacrificing lots of bulls and collecting their blood and pouring half of that blood on the altar (the symbol of God’s presence) and sprinkling the other half over the assembled people. The point is that the People and God are now joined by a bond of blood.
The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews. Again the focus of the reading is on blood, but showing that the sprinkling of blood only gives a bond that cannot last and is not perfect. Yet Jesus Christ shed His blood for us. Jesus poured out His blood for us. The Letter to the Hebrews wants us to recognize that this pouring of blood makes a perfect covenant and one which will never end. Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant. Because Jesus has died for us we can receive eternal life.
The Gospel is from Saint Mark and is the account of the Last Supper and is the narrative of the institution of the transforming mystery of Christ being with us always. Again, we can dwell on blood. “This is my blood of the covenant which shall be shed for many.” Then Jesus leaves to meet His death.
Today many of us are far removed from any contact with blood, either human blood or animal blood. Many of us no longer think of blood as the lifeblood of people. To understand these readings we must spend some time thinking about blood. Blood is shed all the time in our modern world. There are wars in so many countries today. Even worse, the blood of innocents is shed without even thinking about it. In China alone, during 40 years, there were 336 million abortions. We can think of all these souls as a mighty army in heaven, interceding for our world, which continues to exterminate the unborn at a high rate. The blood of the innocent cries out! Each year in our world there are about 55 million unborn children who are victims of abortion.
A Covenant in blood is a promise for life! The more we are able to live because of the blood of Christ, the more we can have the strength to work at changing our world, which lives in such darkness.
So first, we must believe and invite others to believe. Then we must seek to follow Jesus Christ and His Way. In that following, our world will change. Glory to God!
Your brother in the Lord,