Corpus Christi Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – June 3, 2018

This Sunday’s Theme: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, originally called Corpus Christi. The purpose of this feast is to instruct the people in the history, mystery, faith, and devotion surrounding the Eucharist. The Mass for this feast was edited or composed by St. Thomas Aquinas upon the request of Pope Urban IV in the year 1264.

“For our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast!” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

Reading 1 – Exodus 24:3-8     The covenant is established between God and the people.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 116:12-13,15-18     God brings salvation.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 9:11-15     Christ is the mediator of the new covenant.

Gospel –  Mark 14:12-16,22-26     Jesus shares His Last Supper with His disciples.

Reading 1     Exodus 24:3-8              (Blood of the Covenant)

Context – The Book of Exodus (the word “exodus” means “departure”) bears witness to God’s actions (about 1350-1200 BC) to deliver a people from bondage and to bind them to Himself in covenant. The Book of Exodus is a continuation of the story of Genesis. The fact that it takes its name from the Israelites’ going out of Egypt shows the importance of this episode in the life of Israel. At the center of all this stood Moses who was called by God to be the agent in delivering Israel from slavery, to be the interpreter of God’s redemptive work, and to be the mediator of the covenant. This book tells of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, the birth and education of Moses and his flight into the land of Midian, his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Horeb) (the burning bush), Moses’ return to Egypt and pleadings with Pharaoh, the plagues of Egypt, the institution of the Passover, the passing through the Red Sea, the giving of the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai, the golden calf, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Today’s Reading –  Today’s first reading takes place at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses has gone up on the mountain and received from God verbally the Ten Commandments as well as the rules concerning Hebrew social responsibility, justice and mercy, personal injuries, protection of property, etc. as found in Exodus 20 through 23. Moses recounts this to the Israelites – “all the words and ordinances of the Lord.” And the people with one voice respond, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” Then Moses writes down the words he has just spoken to the people and repeats them aloud. Once again the people say – “All that the Lord has said we will heed and do.” The writing down and repeated reading of the agreement emphasize the seriousness of the covenant that the people are entering into with God. With the terms having been clearly stated and accepted, the covenant is formally sealed with a blood ritual. Half of the sacrificed animals’ blood is poured upon the altar, which symbolizes God, and half is sprinkled on the people. God and people become “blood relatives.” They share life and pledge fidelity to each other. Using blood in the sealing of the covenant is an affirmation of the people’s acceptance to “take my life if I break this covenant.” It is after this reading that Moses ascends the mountain to receive the first set of stone tablets.

When Moses came to the people and related all the words (i.e. the Decalogue – Ten Commandments) and ordinances (i.e. the rules of the Covenant Code plus all other regulations that God gave to Moses) of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar[i] and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel[ii]. Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls[iii] as peace offerings to the LORD, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”[iv] Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people[v], saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of His.”

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.        “the blood of the covenant” – Christ, at the Last Supper, confirmed the New Covenant, by the outpouring of His blood just like the outpouring of blood at the Mosaic Covenant. And this is daily renewed upon our altars forever at every Mass’ Eucharist.  Our Savior alludes to this Old Testament transaction in the consecration of the chalice at the Last Supper. “The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, the New is in the Old concealed.” – St. Augustine   

 Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 116:12-13,15-18                              (The Cup of Salvation)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm is chosen for its Eucharistic overtones of thanksgiving and its image of taking up a cup. “Cup” is often used by the Hebrews to denote plenty or abundance. So, “the cup of salvation,” could represent an abundance of happiness.

R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.
How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good He has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.[vi]
R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of His faithful ones. I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid; You have loosed my bonds.
R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.
To You will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the Name of the LORD. My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of all His people.
R. – I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the Name of the Lord.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The Jews traditionally sang Psalm 116 after the annual Passover Feast’s meal. It is probable that, when Jesus sang these verses at the Passover Meal (Last Supper) just prior to His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, He raised the third of four cups of wine the Jews drank at that meal. They called the third cup “the cup of salvation.” He knew that cup would only become a true cup of salvation if He paid His vows to the LORD and proceeded to the cross. He then drank the fourth cup on the cross (“I thirst”) and then stated “It is finished”.

Reading 2     Hebrews 9:11-15                      (Jesus the High Priest)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading –  Like the High Priest on the annual Day of Atonement (i.e. Yom Kippur where the High Priest offers an animal blood sacrifice for the atonement of sins for all the people, including himself), Jesus, now our great High Priest, entered not an earthly sanctuary but a heavenly sanctuary after performing the atonement for our sins by offering, once and for all, His own blood on the cross. This earthly priest must enter the sanctuary every year to make repeated atonements.

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as High Priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.[vii] For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.[viii]

For this reason He is Mediator of a new covenant: since a death (i.e. Jesus’ crucifixion) has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance (i.e. eternal life in God’s presence).

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.  

Gospel     Mark 14:12-16,22-26                                (The First Eucharist)

Context –  St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and  an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading –  In our reading for today, we read the account of the Last Supper. It begins with the instructions that Jesus gave to two of His disciples to prepare their Passover celebration (similar to Moses in Reading 1, sending “certain young men” to prepare the Covenant celebration). It then goes on to give an account of the Last Supper.
Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples occurred on the Jewish feast of Passover. The Jewish celebration of Passover, which occurs on the first day of the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread, celebrates God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt. It is a central obligation of the Jewish faith tradition to annually celebrate this meal and to give thanks to God for His deliverance and protection.
Jesus took bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and shared it with His disciples. Similar words and actions follow as Jesus shares the chalice with His disciples. This bread now shared is Jesus’ own body. Those who drink from the chalice are invited to share in a new covenant which will be sealed by Jesus’ own blood.
The Gospel for today reminds us that the Eucharist is a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We believe that Jesus is truly present to us in the elements of bread and wine. Each time we celebrate this sacrament, we prepare for the Kingdom of God. This celebration, as the Second Vatican Council taught us, is the source and summit of the Christian life.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.[ix] Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.[x] While they were eating, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My Body.” Then He took a cup[xi], gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My Blood of the covenant[xii], which will be shed for many. 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.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 1334 – In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The “cup of blessing” at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.

There Is a Foundation Filled with Blood

There is a foundation filled with blood, Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains. (William Cowper)

[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“altar” = The Lord’s presence is represented by the altar. This altar memorializes the place where God revealed Himself to His people.
[ii] “twelve pillars” = The participation of all the people is symbolized by twelve pillars – one for each of the twelve tribes.
[iii] “holocausts” = Whole burnt-offerings: in which the whole sacrifice (i.e. young bulls as peace offerings to God) was consumed with fire (i.e. holocausts), upon the altar. Moses and the people ate the burnt-offerings signifying that they were at peace with God.
[iv] “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” = This oath of obedience implied the participants’ willingness to suffer the fate of the sacrificed animals if the covenant stipulations were violated by those who took the oath.
[v] sprinkled blood upon the people = Part of the blood from the sacrificed bulls was poured upon the altar, and the rest upon the Hebrews, to remind them, that if they proved rebellious, their blood should be spilt. This first version of the covenant ceremony stresses the people’s participation. A covenant ritual includes a sacrifice and a covenant community sharing of the sacrifice.
[vi] Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good He has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.” = The Psalmist has understood the multitude of gifts he has received from God: from non-existence he has been led into being, he has been formed from the earth and given the ability to reason… he then perceived the economy of salvation to be to the benefit of the human race, acknowledging that the Lord gave Himself up to redeem all of us; and he hesitates, searching among all of the goods that belong to him for a gift that might be worthy of the Lord. “How then, shall I make a return to the Lord’? Not sacrifices nor holocausts… but my entire life itself. For this he says: “I will lift up the cup of salvation‘, giving the name “cup’ to the suffering of spiritual combat, of resisting sin to the point of death. – St. Basil the Great
[vii] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood” = This wording is to convince the Jews of the inefficacy of the Old Testament animal sacrifices, and of the virtue of the Christian sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ has made our consciences interiorly clean and sanctified them even in the sight of God.
[viii] “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” = The Holy Spirit acted in a special way in assisting the fully human Jesus to make His perfect self-giving sacrifice which transformed His suffering into redemptive love. Christ’s sacrifice purifies us completely, thereby rendering us fit to worship the living God. It is through sharing in Jesus’ sacrificial worship that we have access to God. The lives of innocent animal substitutes were sufficient only to atone for sin temporarily. However, the life of Jesus Christ, because He was a perfect human substitute, adequately paid for the redemption of all people forever. Having died “once for all” He was able to enter God’s presence “once for all.”
[ix] Gospel Footnotes:
“Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.” = What makes this unique? Men didn’t carry water in jars – that was woman’s work – men carried it in skins. This man would have stood out in a city crowded with pilgrims.
[x] “The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover” = The fact that no amazement is expressed by the disciples causes some commentators to believe that everything had been prearranged. It is more likely that divine intervention is involved.
[xi] “Then He took a cup” = This would be the 3rd of 4 cups of the Passover liturgy, the cup of blessing.
[xii] “This is My Blood of the covenant” = The only time that Jesus speaks of “covenant” is at the Last Supper. A covenant is a family bond which is sealed in blood and the sharing of a communal meal – as defined in Reading 1.