SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
The sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord is a living sign of the covenant, that is, of the communion between God and man and woman. The first reading narrates the conclusive rite of the new and eternal covenant in the blood of Christ. In both cases everything concluded with a “sacrifice.” Nevertheless, the sacrifice of Christ, present throughout history in the mystery of the Eucharist, supercedes in validity and efficaciousness all ancient sacrifices, thus is “priest of all definitive goods” (Heb 9,11), that “entered the sanctuary once for all, having won an eternal redemption” (Heb 9,13).
The first reading (Ex 24,3-8) relates the rite with which is ratified the covenant of Yahweh with Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The protagonists of the action are God and the people. All initiates when Moses communicates to the people the words of the Lord, his laws and precepts, and the people accept: “all the words Yahweh has spoken we will carry out” (v. 3). This makes up the hart and the root of the covenant: to the gratuitous initiative of God follows the consent and the total acceptance of the people. Then “Moses put all Yahweh’s words into writing” (v. 4). This is the document of the covenant, that gave it validity and that will permit that it may be conserved – through its future reading – for all generations. There are two important symbols: the altar that Moses constructs, that represents God; and the twelve stones that represent the people. Bullocks are offered in sacrifice to the Lord on the altar and with their blood, that now is sacred, it is sprinkled on the altar as on the people. However, before the aspersion of the people, Moses proceeds in the reading of the document of the covenant that had been written. The people come to ratify their acceptance: “We shall do everything that Yahweh has said; we shall obey” (v. 7). Blood – sign of life, consecrated besides by the sacrifice on the altar, is poured out on the people creating a link of familiarity between God and Israel “his firstborn” (Ex 4,22). A pact of blood unites them in an existence of fidelity and of love. The altar, the book, the sacrifice and the blood, are the external expression of a vital and mysterious relationship between God and man, compromised in a way of reciprocal loyalty and personal adhesion.
The second reading (Heb 9,11-15) is taken from the solemn homily of the primitive Church known as the “letter to the Hebrews,” and is centered in the figure of Christ, priest. There are taken up many elements of the covenant of Sinai and of the sacrifices of ancient Israel to stress the singularity and the fullness of the sacrifice of Christ. Chris is “priest of the blessings” (Heb 9,11), that is, of the eternal salvation of man and woman; the dwelling “not made by human hand” it is his body (Jn 2,9-11). The victim is himself with his blood, not with the blood of animals like on Sinai; the sanctuary is heaven, where he entered once and for all. Christ does not offer a passing sacrifice like that of Exodus, but one “eternal redemption.” Christ does not purify only ritually and “en the flesh,” but with his blood, make living by the Holy Spirit, “purifies our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God” (v. 14), uniting ourselves totally and definitively with God. The new and eternal covenant realized by Christ, priest, supercedes the bilateral pact of the old covenant, before which man and woman with difficulty reached fidelity. Christ introduces us in the fullness of the kingdom and of salvation as gratuitous gift of God through his redeeming death.
The gospel (Mk 14,12-16.22-26) narrates the institution of the Eucharist, sacrament of the new and eternal covenant in the blood of Christ, in the time and ambiance of the Passover meal. The text underlines the initiative of Jesus, that invites and makes his disciples prepare for such an occasion “a large upper room with couches fully prepared” (v. 15). That room is the space of friendship and of the covenant; there are reunited the disciples around the Master. The bread and wine represent in the Jewish Passover the symbols of the liberation of the Exodus: the bread without yeast remembered the quickness of the flight of slavery; wine, was the expression of the joy of received salvation of God. At the supper, Jesus gives it all a new meaning. The bread and the wine make present the new gift of God, represent the sacrifice that Jesus is about to realize in favor of all humanity. In the bread and in the wine are made present the body and blood of Christ, blood of the new and everlasting covenant that reconciles and unites with God all of humanity. In that “large upper room with couches fully prepared” (v. 15) is born a new community, linked to God in a new and ineffable way. Along history, the community of the new and eternal covenant will celebrate continually that same Eucharistic Passover supper, preparing it to pass one day with Christ to the perfect supper in which it will drink “a new wine in the kingdom of God” (v. 25). Through this supper, participating in the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Church re-creates continually as community of salvation, realizes and strengthens the bond of indestructible love of the eternal covenant with God and nourishes vitally the communion of love between members, that “we share in the one loaf to form one body” (1 Cor 10,17).