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The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Most Holy Body and Blood of C, Year B
Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18 (13)
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
June 6, 2021

Today we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  In the Eucharist, it is truly Jesus we receive.  It begins as bread and wine but it is changed, it is transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus.

Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.

How do we know this?

It is Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper that tell us this.  “While they were eating, he took bread…this is my body.”  “Then he took a cup…This is my blood of the covenant.”   

Jesus does not tell us to use the bread and wine as an image.  He tells us that it is his Body and Blood.  Later this summer we will hear from Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse in John’s gospel.  There Jesus speaks of our need for the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is Jesus’ gift to us.  With both the bread and wine as his Body and Blood, the gospel says He “gave it to them.

Why did Jesus use bread and wine?  They were both part of the Passover celebration.

Bread is a basic symbol of life.  Our physical bodies cannot live with physical food.  Likewise, our souls need spiritual food.  Jesus gives us food for our souls in receiving the Eucharist as his Body.  We become what we receive.

In ancient times, wine was made from the first fruits of the harvest.  Seen as a gift from God, wine played a key role in liturgical celebrations, including the Passover that Jesus celebrated at the Last Supper.

At the core of the Eucharist is receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus but there is more to what we celebrate in the Eucharist.

At the Passover, the Jews sacrificed a lamb.  Today, in our celebration of the Eucharist, we offer a sacrifice.  Jesus becomes the paschal lamb that is sacrificed for our sins.  It is Jesus’ Blood that is “shed for many.” 

Sacrifice is not a popular word today.  Some people are more concerned about themselves than others.  Thus, they do not see value in making a sacrifice.  The idea of liturgical sacrifice may seem antiquated.  One’s thoughts here might focus on ancient sacrifices offered to appease “the gods”.  Others may think of the Jewish sacrifices but say we don’t do that anymore. 

Indeed, we do not offer animal sacrifices anymore.  Jesus changed that but He did not do away with sacrifices.  He replaced the sacrifices of old with his own sacrifice on the Cross.

We are called to make sacrifices.  In what way can we offer sacrifices?  Maybe there has been a time in your life when you turned down a great job opportunity because it was not good for your family.  That is a sacrifice.

Maybe you give up something “extra” and give what you would have spent to support the needs of the poor.  That can be a sacrifice.

The Coronavirus has turned the world upside down.  We can say it, as well as the precautions, were forced upon us or we can accept the precautions as a sacrifice for a greater good.  For instance, we have been wearing facemasks for over a year to protect the health not just of ourselves but for others.  (Our wearing a mask can do more to protect others than ourselves).  We continue to wear masks for a greater good.

Jesus’ sacrifice brings forgiveness, it brings reconciliation.  It reunites us.  With this and in receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood, the Eucharist is a Sacrament of unity that brings us together.  We should never be divided in the celebrating the Eucharist.  We are to be one body in Christ.  We are called to make sacrifices for one another.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross as a historical event happened 2,000 years ago.  What we celebrate today is a memorial.  In our faith, a “memorial” is not just a historical reenactment of an event.  As we celebrate the Eucharist, God makes present in a way only God can, the sacrifice of Jesus.  An altar is a place of sacrifice.  Jesus sacrificed his life for us.

His sacrifice is “not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Here we do well to ask ourselves the question presented by today’s psalm, “How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me?

Jesus shed his blood to form a new covenant with us.  To make a return to the Lord for this, we do well to look at what the people said in the Exodus as God formed a covenant with them from the blood of the animals.

Moses “related all the words and ordinances of the LORD.”  What was the response of the people?  They said not once but twice, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.

Jesus died for us.  Should we not listen to what He has taught us?  Should we not live as He taught us?

This may mean sacrifice.  It may mean giving up things we find pleasurable but aren’t really good for us.  We do this not simply in obligation, feeling we owe it to the Lord (we do).  We are to do it with love in our hearts that comes from God’s love for us.

There is much division in the world.  We need unity.  We need to come together to do God’s will.  Seeking the strength we need, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist.  We give thanks for the Body and Blood of Christ that is offered to us.

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