[Homily: Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Closing Mass of Induction Workshop, ADDU. 6.9.12 based on Ex 24:3-8 and Mk 14:12-16, 22-26]
We have been part of a flow of liturgical feasts in the recent past. First, the celebration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord, where the focus is clearly on the Son. Then, the celebration of Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit sent to us by the Father and the Son; Pentecost marked the beginning of the Church, when timid, confused and fearsome men and women where brought together into a community of courageous disciples of the Lord. Last Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. I have always felt that this feast is focused on the Father, his love for us, expressed in his Word of Love, that becomes an incarnate Word of Forgiveness and Redemption, expressing the Father’s Spirit of compassion and love. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord. It is, as it were, a recapitulation of all of these feasts through the optic of the Body and Blood of Christ. At every Eucharistic celebration, it is the Body and Blood of Christ which connects us to all these celebrated mysteries of our salvation.
But perhaps at this Mass, as we have reflected these past days on our calling to the community of the Ateneo de Davao University and to participate in its mission, we can appreciate more deeply that all this has happened “for you.” The words of the priest at Mass are: “This is my Body which is given up for you.” “This is my Blood…shed for you…” The saving actions of the Lord is for all human being, but here for you, individually, with your own special history and your own personal needs. It is something that can be appreciated also in the light of the Mediation before the Crucified Lord in the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Some of you have made the Exercises recently; some of you have experienced this sacred moment when you are drawn into a deep personal conversation with Jesus on the Cross. His is a Word of love – for you. The rest of the Exercises – as is the rest of our lives – is a personal response to that love.
It is that love that we are invited today to take, to accept. “Take it. This is my Body…This is my Blood” (Mk 14:22.24). In the Mass, “Take and eat, this is my Body. … Take this all of you and drink…This is my Blood.” The invitation is to accept what the Father offers us in love. We are to take it, eat it, drink it interiorize it, and make it a part of us. We are to take the Bread of life, and in all that we do in life, including all of our labors here at the ADDU, allow it to nourish us. We are to take the wine of salvation, and in all of our struggles in life, and allow it to bring us joy.
Our Lord’s Body is the Bread of Life – nourishment that brings us true life, food that answers our deepest hungers.
Our Lord’s Blood is the Blood of the Covenant. The Gospel reference to the “Blood of the Covenant” (Mk 14:24) leans on the Exodus narration of the covenant between God and his people that was sealed in blood. A covenant, of course, is an agreement, a contract. Today, we seal contracts with a signature. In Moses’ day, they sealed contracts with blood.
In the Exodus account, Moses gathers he people. He reads the Ten Commandments of God. The people accept the Ten Commandments, in their acceptance of God as their own. In their acceptance of the Ten Commandment, God accepts the people as his own. This agreement or covenant is now sealed in blood. The blood is the blood of animals offered in sacrifice to God. Half of the blood is poured on the altar, the symbol of God, the other half is sprinkled over their people. The blood binds God and the people in this agreement.
In the Gospel account, Jesus says, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant.” It is a new covenant. The word proclaimed here is not the Ten Commandments, but the Father’s Word-made-flesh in Jesus Christ. It is a Word of love, a Word of salvation. The people accept God’s Word as the full manifestation of the Father’s love and the source of salvation. In their acceptance of Jesus, their faith in him, the Father accepts the people as his own. This new covenant is now sealed in blood It is now the blood of sacrificed animals; it is instead the blood of the sacrificed Son. His own blood is poured out over himself and the wood of the Cross, his altar. And his own blood is not merely dashed on the people. They are told, “Take…all of you, drink… this is the Cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant.” The blood of animals seals the old covenant relationship between God and the people; the blood of Jesus Christ seals the new covenant of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
All, of course, done for you! As your contracts bring you into a working agreement with ADDU, that agreement takes on infinitely more meaning if understood in the context of our participating in the new covenant with God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are his people. As followers of Jesus Christ in faith, we participate in his mission. The ADDU vision mission is only a participation in Jesus’ ongoing mission on earth.
On this mission, take and eat his body, the Bread of Life; it will respond to your deepest hungers. . Take and eat his Blood, the Cup of Salvation. It will nourish you in your relationship with God, and bring you joy.
Let us just recall that when Jesus introduced himself as the Bread of Life that would respond to people’s deepest needs (cf. Jn. 6), many of his disciples wagged their heads, walked away and no longer followed Jesus. Let this not be the case with us in our careers at ADDU. Let us walk, talk and eat with Jesus who shares with us “words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68). In sharing his Eucharistic meal, let us draw closer to each other, strengthening each other in service, and cherishing the hope of coming together in a heavenly banquet (Ps. 23:5).