Exodus 24:3-8/ Psalm 116/Hebrews 9:11-15/ Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Theme: The Eucharist is a sacrifice
Today’s liturgy presents the Eucharist as the sacrifice of the New Covenant. The Gospel reading presents Christ giving his life as the sacrifice of the New Covenant. It is through his blood that the New Covenant between God and humanity is enacted.
The First reading places our understanding of the Eucharist in its proper perspective by emphasizing its sacrificial character. Having read out the Word of God to the people, Moses “… rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain…” (Exodus 24:4). “
The mention of blood presupposes sacrifice. Here it was the blood of bulls and lambs. Just as the blood sprinkled on the Israelites was the seal of God’s covenant with them, the Eucharist becomes the seal of the covenantal relationship we have with God in the New Testament.
The Gospel reading presents Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant. At the institution of the Holy Eucharist, he told his apostles: “…this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). By this very fact Jesus brings out clearly the communal aspect of the Eucharist as well. By the nature of its celebration, the Eucharist guarantees salvation. To show the link between the Eucharist and Jesus’ death on the cross, St. Mark tells us in the Last Supper narrative that “… when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26). Thus after the unbloody sacrifice in the form of Bread and wine, Jesus goes on to give a concrete expression to his total self-giving to the entire world by his bloody sacrifice on the cross.
The Letter to the Hebrews shows vividly that Jesus’ priesthood is superior to that of the Old Testament priesthood and it has a sacrificial character. The author says, “For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ…” If we are privileged to have some share in the Eucharistic sacrifice, then let us join the Psalmist in saying, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me…? (Psalm 116:12-13).
Many are the excuses we give for rejecting so great a gift. According to Pope St. John Paul II of blessed memory in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfilment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).”
The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by him she is fed and by him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light”. Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lk 24:31).
In sum, in the opening prayer of this Mass, we prayed that: “O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption…”. May we become what we celebrate and may the fruits of our redemption be seen by all.