Here is the homily I gave today.
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood, Year B
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
June 10, 2012
While in the desert, the Israelites received the Law from God through Moses. Today Moses repeats the “words and ordinances” that make up the law to the people and they agree to ‘do everything that the Lord has told them’.
Then sacrifices are made and the blood from those sacrifices is sprinkled upon the altar and the people symbolizing the covenant that is made between God and the people. Blood is used because it is a sign of life and using blood in the sealing of a covenant symbolizes a total commitment of both parties.
Thus is the Old Covenant.
We live under a new covenant. Like the old covenant, the new covenant is sealed with blood. But it is not the blood of goats and bulls but the blood of Christ himself. The old sacrifices of the old covenant had to be repeated over and over but the sacrifice of Jesus is done “once for all.” We enter into this new covenant through baptism. In making the old covenant the disciples agreed to follow the “words and ordinances” given by God.
In our baptismal promises, we profess what it is that we believe in, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and all that God does for us.
I said that the sacrifice of the new covenant is the “sacrifice of Jesus done once for all.”
Of course, the sacrifice of Jesus is the Crucifixion. It is the event where Jesus gave his life (it was not taken from him) for our sins. His great act of sacrifice is his giving his life out of love for us. It is the “unblemished” sacrifice as Jesus is the perfect “unblemished” sacrifice.
The sacrifices of the old covenant had to be repeated over and over because they were perfect and incomplete. Jesus’ sacrifice is perfect and complete. Therefore, it never has to be repeated.
It is not repeated but we still celebrate that sacrifice today. We do not celebrate a new sacrifice but God makes present what Jesus did 2,000 years ago. We do so every time we celebrate the Eucharist. Jesus did not allow himself to be crucified as an isolated event. Before he was crucified he celebrated the Eucharist with his disciples.
And he chose no ordinary day to celebrate the Eucharist. He took the Passover that was the most important feast for the Jews for the Passover was fundamental to understanding who they were and transformed it into the Eucharist.
The Eucharist defines who we are as Catholics. When Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist he said “Take it, this is my body.” And over the chalice he said, “This is my blood of the covenant”, words that I repeat each time we celebrate the Eucharist.
Jesus did not say ‘pretend this is my body’ or ‘imagine this is my blood.’ He said “this is my body, my blood.”
And so, in faith, we believe that the bread and wine that we offer is transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. It’s a really big word that we don’t use for anything else. And we shouldn’t use it for anything else. The changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood has no parallel.
It doesn’t look any different. It doesn’t taste any different but we believe. We believe Jesus when he says “this is my body… this is my blood.” Remember I have an engineering degree and I also have a minor in Chemistry. I don’t know how it is changed. I can’t find any physical difference. But in faith I believe it is the Body and the Blood of Christ.
Our belief in the real presence defines our faith. I remember when I was first ordained and getting ready to preside at Mass for the first time. I prayed saying that I believed something incredible happened in the Eucharist. I asked God to make me acutely aware of that as I presided for the first time and he did.
There is nothing more important that I do then preside at Mass. I say words but God works through those words to make present the Crucifixion of Jesus for us, not a new sacrifice but the same sacrifice that has been celebrated for 2,000 years and gives us the Body and Blood of Christ.
We enter into the covenant in Baptism. We are renewed in the covenant each time we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. May we become one body, one spirit in Christ.