Theme: The Eucharist is our life
In one village there was a 6-year-old boy who refused to go to school. Each day, despite his protests, his mother walked him there, but as soon as she left him, he ran back home only to have his mother bring him back to the school again. No threat could convince him to change his mind. Finally, in desperation, his parents took him to their Catechist who said, ‘If the boy won’t listen to words, bring him to me’.
When he was brought the Catechist said not a word; he simply picked and held him to his heart for a long time. Without speaking a word he let him down and straight away the boy went to school willingly. What words could not accomplish, a silent embrace did. Not only did he perform well, he went on to become a great scholar. This situation, wonderfully expresses the essence of the feast we celebrate today. Through the Eucharist, God physically embraces and holds each one of us close to the divine heart.
First reading: Exodus 24:3-8
What sealed the covenant between God and Israel consisted in the sprinkling of blood on the altar and on the people assembled. Among the Hebrews, blood was regarded as the seat of life and power. Because of its importance, blood was regarded as belonging to God the giver of life. There were injunctions forbidding the drinking of blood and spilling it outside the realm of the cult was forbidden under penalty of death cf. Exodus 20:13. Applying it to the altar was understood to accomplish powerful and effective expiatory of sin particularly on Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement cf. Leviticus 16:15-19. Each Passover, the Jewish people remember the blood that was placed on the doorposts and lintels of their homes in Egypt as they were saved from death cf. Exodus 12:7. Every Passover celebrates Israel’s freedom from slavery and its establishment as a people whose covenant with God was ratified and sealed with blood.
After the terms of this covenant were read in the presence of the people they expressed their willingness to be faithful to God, to the covenant and to the law with the words ‘all that the Lord had said, we will heed and do’. Every Eucharist we celebrate Jesus identifies the cup of blessing as ‘my blood of the new covenant poured out for many’. Like the blood on the doorposts at the Passover, the blood of Jesus effects our redemption and seals our covenant with God forever.
Second reading: Hebrews 9:11-15
At the beginning of Chapter Nine of the Letter to the Hebrews conducts us on a virtual tour about the ancient desert tabernacle and then the double-chambered sanctuary of the temple with its lamp stand, the table with the bread of the Presence. Even more amazing is the holy place with a golden altar of incense, the Ark of the Covenant covered in gold guarded by two gold cherubim cf. Exodus 25:17-21, Hebrews 9:1-10. Just as our eyes are filled with the sight of gold and our imaginations are working overtime because of these wondrous trappings of the former tabernacle, ‘much more’ is the sacrificial liturgy of the cross whereupon Jesus gained access once and for all to the Holy One God.
Having established the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are assisted to make comparison with: 1- the former tabernacle made by human hands, while the perfect tabernacle to which Jesus offered access to sinners is of heavenly creation; 2- Jesus being the high priest of the good things that came to be, entered the holy place not with the blood of sacrificed animals but by offering himself unblemished in order to sanctify and save sinners; 3- whereas the former covenant was conditional and frequently breached; the new one in Jesus is new and absolutely eternal. Therefore in Jesus we have an anchor of the soul which is sure and firm. Jesus has entered the holy of holies on our behalf as forerunner, “becoming high priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” Hebrews 6:19-20. As we celebrate him as our high priest today, we celebrate the very gift of himself that he gave us to nourish and sustain us forever. Through his blood we are saved, forgiven and redeemed. Each time we gather for Eucharist, we pray, Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy, we eat your Body and drink your Blood. Let it not bring us condemnation, but health in mind and body. I hope you are not a spectator but participator in the Eucharist.
Gospel: Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
This text is remarkable because it skips Mark 14:17-21 that predicts Judas’ betrayal. Despite the fact that Jesus knew what was in his heart, Judas was welcomed at that last Passover meal because Jesus was willing to save him. The lesson on Judas speaks to all of us whose sins and failures betray Jesus in any way. Nevertheless Jesus continues to provide for us the sacred bread and wine of his body to heal and rehabilitate us. When we dare to accept, we are never reproached but welcomed to partake in Jesus’ intimate and self-sacrificing hospitality.
Mark does not tell us when Judas left Jesus and company that evening. Was it before the gift of Eucharist or after? We are left to wonder so that we can examine whether we are responsive Jesus’ offer. This excerpt leaves the last supper in the context of the Jewish Passover of Unleavened Bread. Just as the Jews celebrated their deliverance from slavery with the commemorative meal of the sacrificed lamb, so do Christians celebrate deliverance from sin and death with the commemorative meal of Jesus’ own body and blood.
Mark, like other synoptic Gospels affirms the symbolic significance of James and John’s ambitions for greatness which is met by an interrogation ‘Can you drink the cup that I drink?’ The cup being a symbol of suffering and death means that Jesus shares it with his disciples forecasting suffering and death for any disciple cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34. Similarly Jesus makes reference about drinking new wine which connotes the Eucharistic celebration as a feast of unity that welcomes sinners. In this feast the similar of Judas can find healing and forgiveness. At every Mass we basically proclaim the mystery of faith that ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again’ simple enough; but unfathomable mystery.
Every death is both passive and active because it is when we loose that we start to gain. Unlike other created living things, we who are human are called to play an active part in our dying. We can not choose whether to die or to live, but we can choose the attitude we take toward death. Incidentally to know how to approach death, we have to know how to approach life. We need to realize now that we not wasting away our whole life chasing the wrong star. The right star that shines forever is Jesus who alone has died, is risen and now is alive.
Since the Passover prefigured the Eucharist, we need to make sure that through Him we Passover from death to life. This is because Jesus is our high priest who offers himself for us once and for all. In the Eucharist we are not only nourished but we are healed and made whole. The Eucharist prefigures what the second coming of Christ is. It means that in Christ every molecule of dust is in the right place forming continuously the kingdom of God. From God’s perspective however, all of this has already happened. For us, this cosmic drama is gradually unfolding before our eyes in space and time in the Eucharist who is Jesus.