June 6, 2021
Last week as we celebrated the Holy Trinity of God’s presence in Our Loving Creator Father, in Jesus his Son who became one of us, and the Holy Spirit who keeps all of us together in a community of life and love and justice. I shared my belief that we find the presence of God when we breathe as God breathed life into us, and when we feel our pulses and the pressure of his blood flowing in us.
Our Scripture passages today talk a lot about the use of blood in making a covenant with God, how Jesus’ covenant was something different than all those Old Testament rituals, and that we are not cannibals who drink the blood of Christ.
Where does all this begin?
First of all, we have to go back to the third book of the Old Testament, the book of Leviticus where we find the Old Testament understanding and their rules. Their relationship to God who called them into a covenant, how they were to worship God, how they were to atone for their sins, how they were to renew the covenant with their loving God if it became broken.
The life of the flesh is in the blood. This blood, I myself have given you to perform the rites of atonement for your lives at the altar; for it is blood that atones for life. (Leviticus 17:11)
So, our first reading describes how the people of Israel atoned to God for all their sins before Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the stone tablet that God would inscribe for them.
To completely atone for sins, a person would have to offer the blood of their lives in reparation, but God told his priests to use the blood of animals.
So began the sacrifices of animals in the Jerusalem Temple to praise God and to appease God’s anger and to win God’s absolution — before the Temple was ever built and up until the time of Jesus himself.
This “life spirit in blood” was also recognized in Greek and Roman culture as a way to appease the multiple gods of their pantheons.
In today’s first reading, Moses orders the sacrifice of bulls, and collects the blood in large bowls. The people enter into their covenant and declare: “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” Moses splashes, then, representing God, the altar that had been set up with blood, from the bowls, and after the people promise to do what God asked, Moses sprinkles and splashes the people with the same blood.
Can you imagine what the slaughtering of these animals and the bowls of blood would smell like, much less, ourselves being splashed with blood — gruesome, even if our sins were forgiven and were atoned for.
At the end of the first century, after 70 years or so of reflection about Jesus and who he was and what he did, the author of the letter to the Hebrews urges us to leave the splashing of blood behind. Jesus opened heaven for and showed us how to atone for our sins. Note the words of this unknown author: “not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”
The blood of Christ signifies the receiving of the divine life energy of Jesus. In love, Jesus offers his eternal Spirit to God his Father. Once and for all, Jesus breaks the hold of sin to keep us punished. Jesus creates a personal and direct relationship between Himself and His father for us.
Jesus has turned the Passover of the Jews from atonement for sin to atonement between himself and us, between ourselves and his Father. In the breaking of His bread, Jesus comes to enter us and to feed our souls and spirit. His life line is more than blood. His life line is Himself, his divine energy. And in this life that He gives at last, there is truly a communion, what God the Father has always wanted between us and Him.
So today on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, heaven and earth come together, God and his people renew their covenant. We are not stuffing Jesus into a piece of bread or a swallow of wine.
In a few minutes from now, we will hear Jesus say what he is doing and the invitation to take what He is giving to us, not a body or his blood as he was in human person, but his word and wisdom, his friendship and love, his life-giving divine energy to help each day to be who he wants to be for everyone.
The Holy Communion is more than a moment, more than ritual action.
“This is my blood of the Covenant which will be shed for many,” Jesus says today. The blood of the covenants is “the life” of the covenant. Beyond physical ingredients, the blood of the covenant is the explosion of God’s presence and life, past and future reaching out to us and drawing us close to deep within God’s heart.
Today’s real question is how much does the Divine Energy of Jesus that we receive in Holy Communion change us? It is meant to change us into Jesus himself. Do we see a change in ourselves, our personality, our presence? Do we hear Jesus say: “Here I am. Let’s do the world together.” Is there more patience, love, inclusiveness, understanding in our hearts because we have received Holy Communion?
More than a personal devotion, Holy Communion is Jesus’ chance to make us into himself. How are we doing with that?