FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
THE BLOOD OF THE SACRIFICE
In most cultures, there exists a form of blood sacrifice. Countless examples can be found in the Old Testament. The covenant that God offers the people in the first reading was accepted by them “with one voice”. It became a reciprocal covenant. As a ritual and official seal of its seriousness, indeed, of its indissolubility, young bulls were slaughtered and Moses, as a mediator between God and the people, sprinkled half of the sacrificial blood on the altar and half on the people after the covenant document was read aloud. His explanatory words, “this is the blood of the covenant”, remind us of the loyalty-relationship men inaugurate when they make a pact of “blood-brotherhood” by sharing something of their innermost vitality. Yet one final thing is missing from this brotherhood pact at Sinai: the blood being sprinkled in both directions is animal blood. The second reading will remove this foreign element, “the blood of goats and bulls”, replacing it with the blood of the One who is his own person is both God and man.
The Old Covenant, in itself indissoluble, is completed when the ultimate mediator comes before the Father “with his own blood”, atones for all the unfaithfulness of the human partner in the covenant, and, because he is able to offer himself for the world “through the eternal Spirit”, “bring about eternal redemption.” If Jesus presents us with his eternal offering not merely for reception but also for “doing” (“do this in my remembrance” [1 Cor. 11:25]), is there any limit to the awesome reverence with which we must carry out this “doing” of the eternal redemption”?
In the Gospel Jesus sends two disciples ahead to prepare the paschal meal, but there is little left for them to do, since Jesus himself has seen to everything in advance and given the two appropriate instructions. So too he leaves up to us a certain kind of preparation for the Eucharistic Feast, but all the essentials have been formed by him; he alone is the center, indeed the sole content of what is celebrated. The congregation need not “form” this center, because the center is always completely unpredictable and overwhelming for them: that Jesus takes a piece of normal bread and distributes it with the words, “Take, this is my body.” And the next thing he does is almost more incomprehensible: that he takes the cup of wine and gives it to them to drink with the words, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant to be poured out for many.” He says this while he is still sitting at table with them – in his action he anticipates the shedding of his blood. And by speaking of the “blood of the covenant”, he points back to the origin of the covenant at Sinai, the subject of the first reading. Yet at the same time he also shows how much he surpasses this “Old Covenant” in a “New Covenant” (1 Cor 11:25) – the second reading will point up the distance between the beginnings at Sinai and their fulfillment in the Gospel. Both readings show that Jesus completes his Father’s work with the institution of the Eucharist, and that he does this in the Holy Spirit, since he offers himself up on the Cross “by the power of the eternal Spirit” (Hebrew 9:14). Thus Corpus Christi is a profoundly trinitarian feast. Jesus paid a big price for our salvation, let us not render it worthless.