On this great Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are given an opportunity to ponder with greater appreciation and devotion the wondrous gift of the Holy Eucharist. This is all the more important today, because in some parts of the world, the very meaning of the Holy Eucharist is increasingly distorted and lost.
The readings chosen for our meditation bring out the central, primary meaning of the Holy Eucharist, from which all other aspects of the mystery flow. The Holy Eucharist is not principally about a community gathering to share a meal, in the process of which Christ is remembered – though this idea is quite prevalent in many places today. On the contrary, the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice. Traditionally, Catholics refer to the Mass as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We read in the Catechism: “The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood. But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us” (CCC 1382).
At the Mass, what is made present is the sacramental representation of the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of the world. The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is the fulfilment of the ancient covenants which God made with his people in the Old Testament. God established the former covenants, by his own initiative, as a means by which to show us his love, to be close to us, and to unite us to himself in a lasting bond of love.
Hence we read in the Book of Exodus about God’s covenant with his people through Moses. It is significant to note the key elements. There was a law: Moses told the people all the words and ordinances of the Lord in the book of the covenant and they answered: “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” There was an altar and a blood sacrifice. Half the blood was splashed on the altar, representing God; the other half was sprinkled on the people. Thus, a blood compact was established between God and his people. Moses said: “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.”
All this – the law, the altar, the sacrifice, the blood covenant – sacred and solemn as it was, was a mere shadow of what we celebrate today, the new and eternal covenant ratified by the Blood of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus announces, as he institutes what we now call the Holy Eucharist, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
Today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews gives us the theology, the deeper understanding of what Jesus did at the Last Supper, and how it relates to and fulfills what Moses did in today’s first reading. The New Covenant, established by the shedding of the Precious Blood of Christ on the Cross, replaces and surpasses the Old. If the blood of animal sacrifices, the peace offering offered by Moses, brought a kind of peace, how much more the Blood of Christ? How much more will his Blood “cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God”? When we have the privilege of receiving the Holy Eucharist, we renew our bond of love, the holy covenant that God has made with us through the Blood of Jesus Christ. At each Holy Mass, God reveals anew how much he loves – enough to give us his only Son.
The Opening Prayer or Collect for today is: “O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption.” This feast of Corpus Christi invites us to welcome the abundant fruits of Christ’s Passion and Death, and to adore him truly present – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Sacrament of his love, the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Am I allowing the true meaning of the Eucharist as a sacrifice to be distorted and lost in my life? When I receive the Eucharist, do I ponder on the love God has for me by giving me his only Son? How often do I make a special effort to spend time in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.