Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14: 12-16; 22-26
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
This week’s readings include a selection from one of the lesser known books of the New Testament – a text traditionally referred to as “the letter to the Hebrews”. More likely, this work is a sermon offered by an unknown preacher (not St. Paul) sometime in the second half of the first century to a church community consisting primarily of Jewish Christians. Taken as a whole, this work is the most complete and profound reflection upon what it means to proclaim the risen Christ as the Temple “not made by human hands” found anywhere in the New Testament.
The selection in this week’s reading assumes some understanding on the part of the reader of the particular ritual that took place at the Temple of Jerusalem on the feast of Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement. On that solemn day, the High Priest would enter the “Holy of Holies” – the innermost Sanctuary of the Temple where Jews believed God’s presence abided on earth – carrying with him a bowl filled with a special blood sacrifice. This was the only day and the High Priest was the only person who could enter this sacred room. The high priest poured out the blood onto the altar as a means of imploring God’s forgiveness on the sins of the people.
“He (Jesus) is the mediator of a new covenant.” Through these words, the author of Hebrews is telling us that, in his willingness to shed his own blood on behalf of the people, Jesus has taken over the role of the High Priest and transformed the whole Yom Kippor ritual into something new. There is nothing symbolic about Jesus’ sacrifice; through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus God has emptied God’s self for the multitudes of human beings past, present and future. Through Jesus, what was once an obscure ancient ritual has become a means to proclaim a wonderful new truth: God is Love. Through that absolute love, we have come to be and are sustained. Motivated by that absolute love, God “became like us, so that we might become like God.”
Ironically, a ritual which at one time suggested that God needed to be appeased is transformed by Jesus as a symbol of pure love. For many of us burdened by the darkness of original sin which whispers to us that we are alone and unloved in an indifferent universe, this is a truly new and wonderful message indeed.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgirm)
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