The Catechism tells us that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Christian life (CCC, 1324).
All of the other sacraments point toward the reality of what the Eucharist really is: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. What a tremendous and humbling gift to receive the Creator into our hearts and souls. Today we will delve into the Scriptures surrounding this great mystery.
First Reading Reflection
This scene from Exodus takes place after the Israelites who fled Egypt have arrived at Mt. Sinai. Shortly after they arrived, God presented an initial invitation through Moses to the elders of the people. Now the Lord has presented the terms of the covenant to Moses as mediator, with the other leaders nearby (see Exodus 24:1). At last Moses presents the covenant with its terms—the Law—to the people. It is something like a formal, royal proposal of marriage. The people give their unanimous consent.
Moses then continues with the process of ratifying the covenant. He writes it all down and then prepares the celebration. It begins with burnt offerings, symbolic of complete commitment and union. Then half the blood from the sacrifices is sprinkled upon the Lord’s altar and the covenant is read aloud again. This is analogous to the pronouncement of marriage vows—The Law is important, but only because it outlines the way that the members of the family of God should act. The people pronounce their formal consent and the other half of the blood is sprinkled on them. The shared blood suggests the new shared life. On the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Mother Church invites us to recall the centrality of the Mass, our new covenant celebration where what was foreshadowed by the Old Covenant ceremony takes place in fact.
Second Reading Reflection
In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author exhorts the hearers to stay strong in faith. Interestingly, the letter centers around the priesthood of Christ, who is shown as the prime example and indeed the author of faithfulness.
The letter is also a beautiful example of typology, where the events and persons of the Old Testament are shown to be fulfilled in the life of Christ and his Church. Through this method of interpretation, Jesus is shown to possess a unique, unending priesthood. He is, moreover, the priest of the New Covenant, which brings about for the people a more perfect union with God (see Hebrews 8:6). Just as the High Priest of the Mosaic Law would enter into the Holy of Holies once a year to offer a sin offering of blood, so Christ, through his Death and Resurrection, entered once for all into the presence of God, restoring sinful humanity to grace.
This chapter of Hebrews specifically recalls the events recounted in the First Reading from Exodus. It explains that the action of Moses with the blood was an act of purification, but only externally. The Blood of Christ, however, effects a real spiritual transformation. We can take comfort in such a high priest, who has both human sympathy and divine power to forgive sin.
Mark’s account of the Last Supper is interwoven with references to the Passover. The chapter opens with the leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem planning to put Jesus to death. The time is two days before Passover, when devout Jews were likely selecting the sacrificial lamb for the Passover meal.
The feast of Unleavened Bread, which coincides with the feast of Passover, arrives.
The account of the meal itself is brief, but telling. There is no mention of the Passover lamb, highlighting that Jesus himself is the sacrificial offering. And the meal is not concluded in the traditional way with a final cup of wine. Instead, a new covenant has been established with the Blood of the Christ (fulfilling the covenant we read about in the first reading). But the new Passover feast is not finished, for after giving the cup of his Blood, Jesus says he is not going to drink anymore until he drinks anew in the Kingdom of God. Then they sing a hymn and set out to the Garden of Gethsemane. The sacrificial celebration continues to Calvary, uniting both symbol and reality.
Anima Christi Prayer
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me. Within thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee. From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me and bid me come unto thee That with thy saints I may praise thee forever and ever.
Watch the short Opening the Word video reflection on by Dr. Scott Powell.
How has Christ touched you through the Sacrament of the Eucharist?
What can you do at Mass to enter into the mystery of the Eucharist more deeply?
It can be hard for us to comprehend that Jesus Christ is present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in a small piece of bread. This surpasses our human understanding. However, there have been several reported miracles where the Eucharist has transformed into ﬂesh or blood, revealing the truth of this sacrament. One of the most famous of these miracles was in the 700s in Lanciano, Italy. A monk was doubting the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as he consecrated the host in Mass. In his hands and before his eyes, the precious host turned into ﬂesh and blood. Jesus was indeed present. We don’t all get to experience a Eucharistic miracle in this way, but ask Jesus to open the eyes of your heart the next time you are at Mass to see him there, fully present, on the altar.
Come to the Large Hall next weekend, Saturday and Sunday anytime between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm to view the Vatican Approved Eucharistic Miracles of the World Exhibit. Plan to spend a few minutes in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel after.
Reflections reprinted with permission from Augustine Institute.