Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi:
The Gift of the New Covenant
It seemed that the gloom was finally being lifted. Three times Jesus had told them that He would suffer and die and then be raised from the dead. The disciples didn’t know what “being raised from the dead” meant, but they knew what suffering and dying were. There were powerful people who wanted Jesus dead. The Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, assorted Scribes, people who routinely fought with each other were united in their hatred for Jesus. Jesus went to Jerusalem, and walked right into their death trap! He was there, teaching in the Temple, right before their eyes.
The shadow of the cross hung over them all even before they were certain that Jesus would be killed. Three times he had predicted His passion and death. But here in Jerusalem, his death was all but a matter of time. There was gloom among the disciples.
And, then, Jesus told them to prepare the Passover dinner. This was a welcome change. The Passover dinner with its traditional prayers was a celebration that every Jew looked forward to. It was a wonderful meal. It celebrated God’s choice of the Hebrews to be His people. It was a meal full of love. Perhaps we can best compare it to our Christmas dinners, full of warmth and love. It was tangible, this overwhelming love of God.
The room was prepared. The table was set. The lamb was roasting. When the disciples entered with Jesus, they could smell their dinner. Their mouths watered. The gloom was gone.
Before the meal Jesus washed their feet and then told them that what He did for them they should do for others. He was always doing some prophetic action that they hoped they would understand someday. Now, onto the meal. It was wonderful, the food, the joy, just being together with Jesus. This would be a great Passover. Then Jesus performed another prophetic action. He took bread and said, “Take it, this is my body.” He took wine and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that will be shed for many.”
The disciples knew about the blood of the covenant initiated by Moses. They had learned as children that Moses had sprinkled the people with blood from sacrificed animals. This was a sign that they would be committed to a binding relationship with the God who had delivered them from Egypt. Jesus did something that was at the same time similar and different. Blood was involved in the covenant He made, but it was not the blood of sacrificed animals. It was His blood. The disciples were not sprinkled with this blood. They drank it. But like the people of Moses’ day, they would be bound to a covenant with God. This would be the New Covenant of the Kingdom that Jesus had come to establish. And just as God had delivered the people of Moses’ day from the slavery of Egypt, Jesus would deliver them from the slavery of sin.
The Blood. His blood would do that. It was the sign of the conquest of evil. More than that, it was the covenant of redemption.
The disciples ate the Body and drank the Blood and gave thanks to God for His preferential love. Then they heard Jesus say, “Do this in memory of me.” For just an instant, the gloom returned. “In memory of me?” He was going to die. But they
would still celebrate His Presence in the Body and Blood of the New Covenant.
The celebration of that Passover continues through the ages. Every Mass renews the celebration of the New Covenant. During every Mass the Body and Blood are offered to the Father. God’s love is abiding. His love dwells among us, with us, and within us.
And so we receive communion. We take the sign of the New Covenant within us. We are united to Jesus Christ sacrificing Himself to redeem mankind. We receive Jesus dying physically so we can live eternally. We receive communion. We are united to the New Covenant. We are united to Jesus Christ.
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of the Lord, reminds us of what we are doing when we receive communion. It reminds us of Whom we are receiving when we eat the host and drink the wine. It celebrates our union with the Eternal Word of God become man so that we, human beings, can be united to the Divine.
Come and eat the Body. Come and drink the Blood. Enter into the mystery, the deep mystery of God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to become one of us, to die for us, and to fill us with the very life of God. Come and celebrate the Eucharist. Give thanks for the Gift of the New Covenant.