SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI)
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
By Fr. Euly Belizar, Jr.
A Jew and a Filipino were having a conversation.
Jew: “For us blood is sacred. It is the principle of life.”
Filipino: “For us it depends.”
Jew: “What do you mean?”
Filipino: “If it is human blood, we donate it. If it is pig’s blood, we cook it.”
Jews don’t eat anything that has to do with blood because blood for them is a symbol of life. It is in this sense very sacred for them. When Moses, in the first reading, sprinkles half the blood of bulls sacrificed to the Lord on the altar and the other half on the people, the sense is unmistakable. God and his people now share life together because of the covenant. Not quite unlike the blood compact between Sikatuna and Legaspi (remember our Philippine history?).
But the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews spells out the difference between the Old Covenant and the New. In the New Covenant begun by Jesus Christ “he entered not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, and achieved eternal redemption”. The blood of sacrificed animals was supposed to have cleansed a repentant sinner at least for a year; then the sacrifice was repeated for the next year. But Hebrews asks us “how much more will the blood of Christ…cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God”!
You probably noticed we haven’t mentioned Christ’s body. This is because this year the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist is held prominent. But, of course, the gospel completes the picture because it has Jesus asking his disciples to eat the bread he took, blessed and broken because this “is my body”, and the cup filled with wine because this “is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many…” Now in the Semitic mindset “body and blood” means whole person. It is the whole person of Jesus that we receive in the Eucharist. And it is the person of one who has given us his all, his very life, on the sacrifice of the Cross.
And we? What does celebrating the Eucharist requires of us?
The gospel has a hint. Jesus asks his disciples to prepare first the place for their shared meal, the “upstairs room”.
Our life, individually and as a community, is our “upstairs room”.
We must get ourselves always ready to receive our King. We clean and put this room in order not only by avoiding sin but especially by living like our King, ready to give our whole selves to God and his People, including the least of his brethren, in acts of love and service. As Pope Benedict XVI once pointed out, we need Jesus’ Body and Blood because our journey to “freedom, justice and peace is long and difficult”.
Jesus was called to die on the Cross so as to give himself totally to us in the Eucharist.
All of us are nourished by the Eucharist in order to live for him.