Today we’re going reflect on the feast of the Body of the Body and Blood of Christ through the prism of Covenant. The Jewish scriptures note a number of covenants – legal agreements between God and the people. The three most important were with Abraham, Noah and Moses.
God called to Abraham asking him to leave his home and his people. He promised him that he would be the father of a great people who would be as numerous as the sand of the seashore. The covenant was ratified in the context of a sacred sacrifice. Abraham slaughtered a number of animals as God had directed him. He then cut them in two and separated the parts placing them a few feet from each other. God put Abraham into a trance and then appeared as a column of fire. Walking between the sacrificial animals God consumed them in the fire. This ratified the covenant between God and Abraham. Abraham and his children would be faithful to God and, in turn, God would make Abraham a great nation. The sign of this covenant was circumcision.
After the great flood God made a covenant between himself and creation. Leaving the ark, Noah slaughtered a number of animals and burned the carcasses as a sacrificial offering pleasing to God. God promised that he would never again destroy the world by a flood re-establishing his relationship with creation. He made the rainbow the sign of this covenant.
During the great theophany at Mount Sinai God entered into a covenant with the Jewish people. He renewed the covenant he made with Abraham and gave them the law that they were to follow. Moses built an altar and gathered the people before it. He slaughtered a number of bulls and drained their blood into basins. To ratify the covenant Moses poured some of the blood onto the altar. The remaining blood he sprinkled over the people. This was a sacred covenant between God and the Jewish people – it was ratified in the blood of a sacrifice. Having a sense of the sacredness of these blood covenants we can move to a deeper understanding of the account of the Last Supper that we’ve read in today’s Gospel.
The passage begins with these words: “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?’” This Passover will be Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. In a matter of hours, he will be sacrificed on the cross. There, he will be the priest offering the sacrifice, like Abraham, Noah and Moses, and the sacrificial victim. His blood will ratify the covenant. At this meal Jesus will establish the everlasting sign of this covenant. “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, ‘Take it. This is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.’”
In this meal, this Eucharist, Jesus offered the bread of his body. They accepted it. They ate it. He offered the wine of his blood. They drank it. In this Eucharist they entered into the most sacred ever imagined. It was sealed in the blood of Christ.
Today, the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we take our place at the table of the Last Supper with him. Today, we stand at the foot of the cross. We see him poured out in sacrifice. Today, we remember his words, “Do this in memory of me,” and re-affirm the terms of this most sacred covenant. We eat his body, broken. We drink his blood, shed. We sing out, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the death of the Lord.” In each Eucharist we accept to follow his new law, to love one another as he loved us. We seal this covenant in the blood of the Lamb.