Monday, 8 June 2015

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Sunday, June 7, 2015                                                                     STM, Toronto

"I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving: and will call upon the name of the Lord." Psalm 116

The Sacrifice of the Passover is recalled by Moses in the First Reading from Exodus on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  Moses recalls the old covenant celebrated at Mount Sinai following the first Passover which was held at the time of the exodus of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt.

Sprinkling the blood of the covenant on the Israelites symbolized God's desire in the Covenant to make the Israelites, the Hebrews, his family i.e. those connected through "blood" – that powerful symbol of life at the heart of Judaism.

Jesus, in the Gospel today, quotes Moses' words.  Jesus elevates and transforms this Covenant symbol into a reality.  Jesus’ own sacrifice of himself is made to establish the New Covenant made in the Blood of Christ.  

Because of his sacrifice we are truly, in reality, enabled to become one, to be unified, in and through the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  The Catholic Faith teaches that we become, individually and collectively, members and partners in the Body of Christ, which is not simply a symbol or commemoration but an eternal reality, a bond in faith and in reality.

Blessed J.H. Newman said Christians are called to “unite together as one, and to shelter our personal profession under the authority of the general body.”

The covenant made with Moses and Israel at Sinai was a foreshadowing or a ‘type’ if you will, of this new and eternal covenant i.e. the representation or foreshadowing symbol in one nation of what would be established for all nations and peoples in Christ - - a New Covenant with all humankind. (Hebrews 10:1).

The Sequence Hymn for Corpus Christi puts it poetically: “Sing today the mystery showing. E’en the same of old provided . . . This new Passover of blessing hath fulfilled the elder rite.”

The Passover that Jesus celebrates with the twelve Apostles actualizes and establishes what was symbolized by Moses' sacrifice at the altar amid the twelve pillars. What Jesus does today and every day in the Mass is to build his Church, the New Israel.  Again from the Sequence: “E’en the same of old provided, where the Twelve divinely guided, at the Holy Table met.”

The Holy Eucharist, then, is the new and universal worship of God inviting everyone to accept the sacrifice of Christ.

In offering himself to God through the Holy Spirit, Jesus delivered Israel from their breaking of the first Covenant, which reflects the failure of humanity to keep the eternal Law unaided by the grace of God.

The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that by his blood Jesus purifies us from sin allowing us to enter into Holy Communion with the eternal, just and merciful God and so in unity with all others who repent and turn to Christ, joined as we are in the Body of Christ.

The days of sacrifice, sacrifice both of humans and of animals has been replaced, as Rene Girard has powerfully noted,  has been replaced through the self-offering of Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the blameless Lamb of God, has brought humanity to consciousness about the pattern and practice of transferring blame to others for our own sins and failures. Jesus has become the final scapegoat of humanity and in doing so has transformed humanity by his Resurrection from the power of sin and death.

Jesus is the final scapegoat because no longer can we unconsciously and collectively place our sin and guilt on the shoulders of another.  The one perfect and complete sacrifice has been offered and is re-presented daily in the Mass – the true and living sacrifice for sin and for our salvation by the innocent victim – the Lamb of God.

Through Holy Communion with Christ and his sacrifice, our own flesh and blood, our own lives, are consecrated and offered as part of the living sacrifice.  This sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving we sing of in today's Psalm: “ What reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits that he hath done unto me.”  Then, with this awareness and our participation in Christ’s life, we are empowered to go out from the Eucharistic feast to live the new life of Christ daily in service to God and humanity.

What we do in the Mass, then, is a pledge. In light of our embodiment in Christ we are required to be present weekly (Sunday obligation) to be renewed in the sacrificial pledge so that together we may live our promise within the Covenant that is ever present to us in and through the Blood of the Lamb of God, Christ the Lord.

We leave the altar, in thanksgiving, for his complete sacrifice for us. We have shared in his body and share in the cup of salvation which we then bring to others in the chalice of our lives as we " . . . offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord."  Ps. 116

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

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