The readings today cover a span of thousands of years in salvation history. We read in a sense the “bookends” of the story; on one end the old covenant of Moses, on the other the New Covenant of Jesus. The liturgy, recalling the journey between these two landmark events, also takes us beyond them each day, for with the New Covenant Jesus has opened forever the door to eternal life through his life, death, and resurrection. Today as we celebrate the annual feast of Corpus Christi, we ponder once more some of the signposts pointing the way to Jesus.
The disciples need a signpost as they enter into the Holy City. They ask Jesus “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” Jesus’ instructions to them are precise, showing that he is in full awareness and control over the events that are to unfold for him. The disciples follow his instructions and find it “just as he had told them.” Wisdom is hidden in every turn of the Gospel. We can learn a valuable lesson from what these unnamed disciples did here: to always do what Jesus tells us to do, to trust that he always knows what is to unfold.
As the Gospel reading moves ahead, we see another signpost pointing to Jesus. In fact it is the greatest one, the one that we honor as “the source and summit of our faith”: the Eucharist, revealed for the first time at the Last Supper. Within the framework of the traditional Passover meal, Jesus expresses with his words and actions the institution of a New Covenant, brought into being through the offering of his Body and Blood. He instructs the disciples at this pivotal moment, “Take it; this is my body,” revealing that his death will be his gift of himself to them and to us. As he did for the disciples at the Last Supper, he invites us every day to receive this gift of himself into the depths of our being. We are blessed as Catholics to have as the pinnacle of our faith the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where we can receive the Body of Christ as our very food of eternal life. There can be no greater gift! It is this great gift that the Church celebrates today in the Feast of Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ – and that we celebrate every day in every Mass.
As Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he offered as drink his Blood, the “Blood of the Covenant.” We read this same phrase in the first reading. When God establishes his covenant with his chosen people, he has Moses sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice 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.” When Jesus declares that now his Blood is the “blood of the covenant,” he is telling us that there is now a new bond between God and his people that can never be broken. The reading from Hebrews teaches us that “the blood of goats and calves” belonged to the first covenant which has been surpassed. The much greater power of the sacred Blood of Christ, in contrast, “cleanses our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Each time we receive the Blood of Christ at Mass, we are renewed in “the promised eternal inheritance” won for us by his sacrifice.
It is a sad phenomenon that in our times those who leave the Catholic Church often say that the reason they left is because they were “not being fed.” How ironic and tragic that in their hunger for God people separate themselves from the one Church instituted by Christ himself to feed his people with his very Body and Blood! We pray, especially on this feast day, that all God’s children will come to recognize the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and return to the table to eat of the divine food found in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the world.
Do I ask the Lord where he wants me to go and what he wants me to do? Am I willing to receive the gift of Christ into the depths of my heart? How can I help others to recognize the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 14, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.