Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle B
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
The purpose of the feast of Corpus Christi is to instruct the people in
the mystery, faith, and devotion surrounding the Eucharist. The
celebration of the feast evolved during the 13th and 14th centuries,
having been preceded by the mid-11th century Berengarian heresy.
Berengar of Tours was an archdeacon who taught that the presence of
Christ in the Eucharist was more symbolic than real.
By the 13th century reception of communion was less emphasized and was
to some extent superseded by merely seeing the Host. At this time
(1209) Juliana of Liège, an Augustianian nun, had a vision which
demanded a feast for the Eucharist. After much persuasion the feast was
celebrated for the first time in 1247, and extended to the whole Church
in 1264. Resistance to the feast was found in Rome and Liège,
but by 1317 its celebration had spread throughout the world.
There is trustworthy evidence that Saint Thomas Aquinas composed two
offices for the feast, but it is not at all clear that the office now
used is one is of them.
1st Reading - Exodus 24:3-8
Today’s first reading takes place at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Moses has gone up on the mountain and received verbally the ten
commandments as well as the rules concerning Hebrew servants, personal
injuries, protection of property, social responsibility, and justice
and mercy (Exodus 20 through 23). Moses then comes to the people and
tells them of the covenant which God has offered them. A covenant is a
family bond, entered into freely, binding perpetually, and sealed in
blood. The Sinai covenant was between God and Israel. God promised to
be the God of Israel; Israel promised to keep all the commands of the
Lord. Moses took the blood of animals which had been sacrificed and
sprinkled it on the altar (representing the presence of God) and the
people (indicating their participation in the covenant).
It is after this reading that Moses ascends the mountain to receive the first set of stone tablets.
3 When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the
Moses immediately reports the words (the ten commandments) and the ordinances (the covenant code) to all the people.
they all answered with one voice, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”
The people assent to the terms and conditions of the covenant.
4 Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD
and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain
an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
The solemn covenant ritual is prepared: the words are written down, the
altar and pillars are set up, sacrifices are offered. A covenant ritual
includes a sacrifice and a covenant community sharing of the sacrifice.
5 Then, having sent certain young men of the
Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace
offerings to the LORD,
Prior to the golden calf (which instituted the Levitical priesthood),
each family had a priest; usually the elder of the family.
6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in large
bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. 7 Taking the book of
the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
The terms (blessing and curses) of the covenant
who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”
The people accept the covenant and swear the oath which binds them to it.
8 Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
“This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with
you in accordance with all these words of his.”
The half of the blood of the sacrifice which had been put in large
bowls is sprinkled on the people; the other half having already been
given to God by splashing it on the altar. The people and God now share
in the sacrifice. The word and the rite are inseparably united.
2nd Reading - Hebrews 9:11-15
It is very likely that the Hebrews to whom this epistle is addressed
were Christians of Jewish background, possibly former priests. Thus,
they are familiar with the ceremonies of Mosaic worship. The main
purpose of this epistle is to show the superiority of Christianity over
the Old Covenant – and how the New Covenant fulfills the old. It
focuses on Christ’s priesthood and shows how this priesthood and
His sacrifices are superior to those of the Levitical priesthood.
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have
come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not
made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, 12 he entered
once for all into the sanctuary,
His risen body – the temple raised up in three days. Now in the
heavenly Jerusalem, it takes its place in the Holy of Holies.
not with the blood of goats and calves
Leviticus 9:2-4 prescribes the offering which Aaron, the first high
priest is to offer every year upon entering the Holy of Holies.
but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
Jesus’ life, offered in sacrifice, gives Him the right of access
to the heavenly sanctuary just as the Levitical High Priest had to
bring the blood of the sacrificial animals; but Jesus does this only
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the
sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled
The ashes were mixed with water and used to cleanse those who had
become defiled by contact with corpses, human bones, or graves (Numbers
so that their flesh is cleansed,
An external ritual washing/cleansing
14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who
through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse
our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
The Holy Spirit acted in a special way in assisting the fully human
Jesus to make His perfect self-giving sacrifice which transformed His
suffering into redemptive love. Christ’s sacrifice purifies us
completely, thereby rendering us fit to worship the living God. It is
through sharing in Jesus; sacrificial worship that we have access to
15 For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant:
since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under
the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised
Through His sacrifice Jesus has brought redemption from the sins
committed under the old covenant, sins that were not taken away by old
covenant sacrifices. As long as the sins remained, man could not
possess the inheritance promised by God. The eternal inheritance is
eternal life in God’s presence.
Gospel - Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Today’s gospel reading is familiar – we heard it as part of
the passion narrative on Palm Sunday. What we hear today are some of
the events leading up to Jesus’ eating the Passover meal with His
disciples in the upper room.
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the
The sacrifice took place on the 14th of Nisan before the first day began at sunset.
his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and
prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 He sent two of his
disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet
you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.
What makes this unique? Men didn’t carry water in jars –
that was woman’s work – men carried it in skins. This man
would have stood out in a city crowded with pilgrims.
14 Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The
Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the
Passover with my disciples?’” 15 Then he will show you a
large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for
us there.” 16 The disciples then went off, entered the city, and
found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
The fact that no amazement is expressed by the disciples causes some
commentators to believe that everything had been prearranged (like
dialing ahead for reservations at 1-800-PASSOVER). It is more likely
that divine intervention is involved.
22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing,
Blessing for the Jew involves a dual aspect: thanks, which is a
God-ward action; and blessing, which is a world-ward action. The Hebrew
word is barak, and the Greek is eucharisteo [made up of eu (good) and
broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”
Just as the elder of the family during the Passover liturgy explained
the “bread of affliction” (unleavened bread, afikomen), so
Jesus explains the bread He is about to distribute. It is at this point
that John 13:30 tells us that Judas left to betray Jesus.
23 Then he took a cup,
This would be the 3rd cup of the Passover liturgy, the cup of blessing (see 1 Corinthians 10:16).
gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 He
said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant,
The only time that Jesus speaks of “covenant” is at the
Last Supper. A covenant is a family bond which is sealed in blood and
the sharing of a communal meal.
which will be shed for many.
The Semitic sense of “many” is a great number without restriction.
25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the
fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of
The Passover liturgy is incomplete. The complete Passover liturgy
requires that four cups of wine (the fourth being the cup of
completion) be consumed.
26 Then, after singing a hymn,
After the third cup of the Passover liturgy, and before the fourth cup,
the Great Hallel (Psalms 114 through 118) are sung. The apostles are
leaving the upper room without completing the Passover liturgy they all
had come to Jerusalem to celebrate. Can they all have forgotten the
liturgy? Exodus 12:22 prescribed that no Israelite was to leave his
house after the Passover meal until morning. Deuteronomy 16:7 applied
this to the Jerusalem temple precincts.
they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The hill east of Jerusalem beyond the Kidron Valley.
Mark 15:36 tells us that Jesus, while on the cross, is given sour wine
to drink [from a sponge on a hyssop branch – the same branch used
to sprinkle the blood on the doorpost at the first Passover (Exodus
12:22)]. When Jesus drank the sour wine He said “It is
finished” (John 19:30) – the same words which consummated
the Passover meal – and gave up His spirit.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org