Solemnity Of Corpus Christi
Cycle B | 03/06/18
Exod. 24: 3-8
Hebr. 9: 11-15
Mt. 14: 12-26
INTRODUCTION: Today is the great Solemnity of Corpus Christi–the Body and Blood of Christ. We will never understand what we celebrate today until we grasp the importance of blood sacrifice for ancient Israel. The feature that impresses modern people is the prevalence of the practice of blood sacrifice: a man would take an aspect of God’s creation–a bull or a dove or a sheep–and would offer it to God, not because He the Almighty has any need of it but as a sign of one’s thanksgiving for the whole of creation or a sign of one’s repentance. This “sacrificial instinct” is very innate to us to express our thanks to God or for our need to be forgiven.
(1) One of the most telling story of ancient blood sacrifice is our first reading today about Moses’ blood offering at Mount Sinai. God has made a Covenant with his people and now, in order to seal this Covenant, Moses performs an animal sacrifice. He takes the blood of this animal and puts it in bowls and sprinkles some on the altar and some on the people. Think of two people who mingle their blood in a blood compact so that they become blood brothers or blood relatives.
(2) Our second reading of today also has to do with blood sacrifice. The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the most misunderstood texts of the New Testament precisely because it deals with this reality that we don’t readily understand. Hebrew has to do with the Temple Ritual during the time of David and Solomon which continues that instinct of Moses.
What is described there is the activity of the High Priest within the Temple on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) when the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and bring with him two animals, a goat upon whom he would symbolically put the sins of his people (scapegoat) and a sheep which he would slaughter. He would place their blood in bowls and sprinkle some in the Holy of Holies and would go out through the veil that separates the Holy of Holies and the people and sprinkle some out there on the people.
Coming through the veil, the High Priest is acting out in the person of Jahweh, offering his own life to the people and the people offering their own life to Jahweh. The people makes a blood sacrifice to Jahweh and Jahweh makes a blood sacrifice to the people, restoring thus the harmony between God and the people.
(3) It is only under this background that we understand what Jesus did at the climax of his life. Jesus was doing something very Jewish in form. Remember during his public life, Jesus was telling something referring to himself: “You have greater than the Temple here.” He was owning himself as the new place of sacrifice and reconciliation. He himself was the Meeting place or the blood connection between suffering humanity and gracious Divinity.
Everything that was done by Moses and by the High Priest for a thousand year was summed up and given a new focus by Christ. That is why at the end of his life, he pronounced something prophetic on the Temple: “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” He was referring to the temple of his body. At the last Supper, Jesus was saying: “This is my body given up for you; this is the cup of my blood, the New and eternal Covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins be forgiven.”
What he is telling is that his ultimate blood sacrifice offers reconciliation of God and sinful humanity. What is anticipated at the Last Supper in signs and symbols is acted out in fact the following day on the Cross: Jesus is the Lamb of God but also the scapegoat who takes upon himself the sins of humanity and the blood pouring from his body and being sprinkled by the High Priest.
CONCLUSION: Now the Letter to the Hebrews becomes understandable: not only blood of goats and bulls but the blood of God’s only Son which means that reconciliation is complete. Now this great reconciliation is offered to anybody at any time at every Mass the Catholic Church does.
This ultimate lifeblood of God, sprinkled by Christ the High Priest once for all for the reconciliation of God and humanity is what the Mass re-presents and makes sacramentally present to us. That Is the stuff of this Feast: the union is complete; Divine Life is offered again to us.
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches