Homily: Feast of Corpus Christi Year B His Body and Blood: Sacrifice and Meal

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Homily Feast of Corpus Christi Year B

 

Reading 1: God has revealed to Moses the conditions of the Covenant that he will enter into with the Chosen People. These conditions are the Commandments and their ramifications. These conditions reflect a way of life God is calling the people to exhibit. The people’s response was straightforward: “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” Yes. Amen. We accept and dedicate ourselves to this way of life.

 

In those days Covenants were sealed with the sign of blood. The blood was a symbol of the life of the animal sacrificed. So Moses makes a sacrifice to God and uses the blood of the sacrificed animal to ratify and close the agreement, the Covenant. He splashed the blood on the altar which represents God. He again reads the commands of the Lord to the people, so that they knew what they were agreeing to. Again, they responded: “All that the Lord has said, we will do and heed.” Then Moses sprinkled the blood on them.  Moses then said: “This is the blood that seals the covenant between you and God.

 

In baptism we became sons and daughters of God, entering into a covenant with God. That covenant was sealed not with the blood of an animal, but with the blood of Christ on the cross. By his suffering and death, we were saved and set free from the bonds of sin. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we renew that covenant again through the blood of Christ. Our profession of faith is akin to the response of the people to Moses.

 

Gospel: The Last Supper was the Passover Meal for Jesus and his apostles. It connected the observant Jew with the Exodus event, when God delivered his people from the bondage of Egyptian slavery. They were to eat a roasted lamb, sprinkle its blood on the lintel of their doors. Seeing the blood, the angel of death passed over their homes.

 

Every year at Passover, the people would remind themselves through the ritual Passover meal of the mighty deeds of God, saving their ancestors and them. In this meal they renewed in the present moment their covenant with God.

 

Knowing that he was the new Passover Lamb, Jesus says “Take this bread and eat of it, for it is my Body.” “Take this cup for it is the Blood of the New Covenant, I am establishing with you.” This new Passover meal was anticipating the sacrifice of his life for the salvation of the world on the cross the next day.

Jesus’ final words to the Apostles was “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.”  According to the Passover meal, there were four cups of wine consumed. When Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant”, it was the third cup of wine. They did not drink the fourth cup because this Passover meal would not be completed until the final moments of Jesus’ life on the cross.

 

At the end of his agony on the cross, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “I thirst”. St. John tells us: “There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips. When Jesus took the win, he said, ‘Now it is finished.’ Then he bowed his head, and delivered over his spirit.” This was the fourth cup of wine. What was finished was this New Passover Meal and sacrifice. Like the Apostles were told, so are we: “Do this in memory of me.”

 

In faith we believe that when the words of Jesus are said at the time of the consecration are said, bread is changed substantially into the Body of Christ and wine is changed substantially into the Blood of Christ. What we eat and drink is the real Body and Blood of Jesus, not a symbol or representation. He told us this in the sixth chapter of John. “My body is real food and my blood real drink. If you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall live forever.” This is the sacrifice of thanksgiving we now make to God for Jesus’ gift of salvation.

 

It is also a meal in which we have communion with God. He remains in us and we in him. He renews the gift of his divine life which we received in Baptism, so that when we die we may die sharing in his divine life eternally.

 

Reading 2: The author of Hebrews reminds us of the greater significance of the blood of Christ, shed upon the cross, in comparison to the blood of animals offered in the Old Covenant. First of all, we recognize that God choose to become man, so that his blood, as the God/Man may be the perfect sacrifice to the Father. The blood of the animals signified external purification not the internal reconciliation from sin and its effects.

 

The blood of Jesus offered on the cross for our redemption purifies our conscience of sin. This first purification takes place in baptism. But like the OT people, we have broken our baptismal covenant by not observing the commands of the Lord and not living a way of holiness, for we too have sinned. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our sins are once more forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Eucharist, we profess: “Say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ does not heal the sins that separate us from God but those that cool our relationship. 

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