BLOOD: A HOMILY ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, YEAR B, BY FR. IFEANYICHUKWU HENRY NWOKORO, CSsR, KIRKWOOD, DUNBRODI AND ADDO
In many cultures, when two people are in love, especially when one of them is going away and they want to make sure that the distance will not destroy thier love, they would do something to tie their love together. The most significant of these is when the two lovers would make a blood covenant. They would pierce each other, mingle their blood and drink it. This becomes a sign that as long as their bloods cannot be seperated one from another, the love between them remains unbroken. This can be dangerous because life is unpredictable. In the Old Testament, God entered into covenants with people and this would warrant sacrificing an animal and using the blood of the animal to establish a covenant. Another time when the people would offer such animal sacrifice would be when they want to give thanks for what God has done for them and when they want to ask for forgiveness of sins. Whether they are entering a covenant with God, giving thanks to God, or asking forgiveness, they are not allowed to drink the blood. They can only sprinkle the blood on themselves.
MOSES SPRINKLES THE BLOOD ON THE PEOPLE
In those days: Moses came and told the people all the words of the lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and build an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”:
Notice here that there are twelve tribes and in the Gospel, there will be twelve disciples. Covenant, like that made by people who are in love, or getting married involve making a promise. They have to promise to be faithful to each other and that is what the blood covenent is all about. In our case with God, we promise to be obedient to Him and He promises to always be with us and to always be faithful to us. But Moses did not give them the blood to drink. They were allowed to eat the meat, as long as it is not stained with blood. There are several bible passages that condemn the drinking of such blood. Leviticus 17:14 tells us that the blood of the animal is identified with its life. This is because when the blood is seperated from the body, the animal dies. Therefore, when you drink the blood of an animal, you start sharing in the life of that animal. In other words, you become an animal yourself. The flesh is not a problem because it is not identified with its life. This is why in the Old Testament, the blood was only sprinkled on the altar, which is God’s throne and sprinkled on the people and this makes them enter into a blood relationship with God, like a family relationship. But the blood used is neither the blood of God nor the blood of the people. It is the blood of an animal created by God, but offered by the people. This is the closest they could get to a common blood-line between themselves and God. As imperfect as this may be, the people are ensuring an intimate relationship between themselves and God.
THE PERFECT SACRIFICE OF JESUS
Brethren: When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may recieve the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occured which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. :
Jesus comes to us in a unique nature. He is both God and man. In Him, God makes the perfect covenant between God and humanity, because in Him is the fullness of humanity and the fullness of divinity. The blood of Jesus can be said to be both the blood of a human being as well as the blood of God. In other words, this is the perfect blood for the perfect covenant between God and humanity. This is why Jesus is the eternal high priest, who is offering the eternal sacrifice of the New and Eternal covenant sealed in His blood. His blood is there to establish the intimate union between God and we. There can be no better priest, no better altar, and no perfect victim, than Jesus Himself.
THE ETERNAL MEAL
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to Jesus, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, “God into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters,, say to the householder, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the Passoover. And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a chalice, and when he ha given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the mount of Olives.:
One thing we notice about this meal is the amount of preparation that goes into it. The preparation should not be ignored. A good priest knows that he should be very well prepared for every Mass he celebrated. We ourselves, especially those who have liturgical functions like Sacristians, Readers, Extra-Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, etc. should not take the Mass as business as usual. We need to be prepared for every mass, especially by going for confession and spending some quiet moments of reflection before Mass. Think of any great event you attend, like a wedding banquet, birthday party, matric fairwell, etc. We put a lot of preparation into them, but when it comes to the Mass and the Eucharist, we just show up, and sometimes even late. The amount of preparation we give to something shows how important that thing is to us. For us Catholics, the Eucharist is our life, because this way, we share in the life of God. We not only eat his body. We are even allowed to drink his blood, because it is the blood of Jesus, and by eating his body and drinking his blood, we enter into this covenantal relationship with God, we become blood-children of God and we begin to share in the life of Christ. How can we just show up casually for such event. This meal is not only a covenant meal, it is the best way we can give thanks to God, as our Responsorial Psalm tells us and it is the celebration of the forgiveness of our sins, which is washed away in the blood of Christ.
The last thing Jesus said is very important. He assured us that the next time we will be having such a meal with him, it will be in the kingdom of God. This is to say that the Eucharist is the foretaste of the eternal wedding feast of the lamb, in heaven. Our whole life, therefore, should be a preparation for this eternal banquet. We prepare for every Mass, but every Mass is itself a preparation for the greatest banquet ever, the royal feast in the kingdom of God. The Mass becomes like a rehearsal for heaven. Notice the progression of our readings from animal sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to the eternal banquet of heaven. If we already take the Mass for greanted, and we dont prepare for it, when it is the foretaste of heaven, how then are we going to take heaven serious, and how much preparation are we putting into preparing for that feast? Think of how we prepare for Matric farewells, for weddings and for birthdays. If we know what the Holy Mass is, we will put in more preparation than that. If we know what awaits us in heaven, we will spend our whole life preparing for heaven.
The most important way to prepare for heaven is by celebrating the Holy Mass, eating the body of Jesus and drinking his blood. This is the only time in the bible when we are allowed to drink any blood. The other bloods were bloods of animals, and we dont want to share in the life of animals. But this is the blood of Jesus and we want to share in the life of Jesus. He will transform us into himself and we will reach the fullness of this transformation in heaven.