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Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (B) 06-15-09

Scripture Readings
First Exodus 24:3-8
Second Hebrews 9:11-15
Gospel Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Prepared by: Fr. Allen B. Moran, O.P.

1. Subject Matter
• Each of the readings involves the establishment of a covenant through the offering of a
sacrifice. Each involves a people chosen by God to live in accord with his wisdom, a people
whose sins are forgiven through the propitiation of the sacrifice. With Moses there was a
foreshadowing of what was to come: the Law that pointed to what was true and right without
giving the capacity to live it and animal sacrifices that of their own have no capacity to make
atonement. The perfect sacrifice instituted by Jesus Christ and made present at each Holy
Mass in the Eucharist is that reconciliation between God and his chosen people.
• The re-presentation of this one sacrifice, in which the only Son of God as both priest and
victim offered himself on the Cross for our salvation and is present among us now in a real
and sacramental sense in his Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine, is
our true Exodus from the land of slavery to sin and gives the grace to live according to the
Law of the Spirit.
2. Exegetical Notes
• The institution of the Eucharist in the Gospel of St. Mark takes place on Passover
crowning the Gospel’s portrayal of Christ’s mission as a new Exodus. The Last Supper
takes place when the Passover lamb is sacrificed. Just as the Passover lamb of Exodus
is replaced by the Lamb of God, the Passover meal is transformed into the banquet of the
New Covenant.
• Moses’ splashing of half of the blood from the sacrificed bulls on the altar of presence and
half upon the people after reading from the book of the covenant eternally binds Israel to
the LORD. Here worship and obedience cannot be separated. It is God’s initiative, and
immediately following this passage from Exodus are a meal on the mountain eaten by the
12 tribes that ratifies the covenant (Exod. 24:9-11) and the giving of the tablets of the Law
(Exod. 24:12-18). (Beale and Carson)
• Blood, according to Jewish thought, contained the life-breath. The blood on the altar
speaks of life as God’s gift, and the fact that the people are sprinkled with this blood
demonstrates their dependence on this gift.
• In Mk. 14:24 Jesus speaks the words, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be
shed for many.” This harkens back to the institution of the Mosaic covenant in Ex. 24:8
(blood of the covenant) and the suffering servant in Isa. 53:12 (shed for many).
• The pouring out of blood in the Old Testament is used in various places to denote both a
violent and unjust death beginning with the death of Abel (Gen. 4:10; 9:6; Deut 19:10; 2
Kgs. 21:16; Ps. 106:38) and an act of sacrificial atonement and sanctification (Exod.
29:12; Lev. 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34).
• Through the institution narrative, in which Jesus combines the pouring out of his blood to
establish the covenant from Exod. 24:8 and the self-sacrifice for the remission of sins of
the many in Isa. 53:12, Jesus effects the true Israel’s eschatological redemption. His
death alone is efficacious. The entire covenant is reoriented around this new and eternal
sacrifice. Jesus’ death constitutes the new Passover and the atonement/purificatory
sacrifice of Exod. 24. (Beale and Carson)
• This sacrifice also reveals something deeper about God himself. In the self-offering of
Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the Son of God obedient to the will of the Father
lays down his life for his enemies. It is the presence of this self-offering in the Eucharistic
elements that we profess and celebrate in an emphatic way in this feast.
• In Heb. 9:15, Jesus is described as “the mediator of a new covenant.” The Old Covenant
is indissoluble yet fulfilled when the one mediator who is both God and man comes before
the Father with his own blood to atone for the unfaithfulness of the human partner in the
covenant. This feast is profoundly Trinitarian since the Son of God offers himself through
the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14), and it is the Spirit who draws believers into this one body of
Christ offering the Sacrifice and true worship. “If Jesus presents us with his eternal
offering not merely for reception but also for “doing” …is there any limit to the awesome
reverence with which we must carry out this “doing” of the “eternal redemption”?” (von
Balthasar)
3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

• CCC 1323 "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the
Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of
the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved
Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of
unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled
with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'"(SC 47)
• CCC 1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church
celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the
sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. (Cf. Heb 7:25-27.) "As often
as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on
the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out." (LG 3; cf. 1 Cor 5:7.)
• CCC 1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice.
the sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: "This is
my body which is given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New
Covenant in my blood." (Lk 22:19-20.) In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he
gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he "poured out for many for the forgiveness
of sins." (Mt 26:28.)
• CCC 1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice:
"The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who
then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "In this divine
sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a
bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner."
(Council of Trent (1562): DS 1743; cf. Heb 9:14, 27.)
• CCC 1368 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of
Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and
entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the
sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the
faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his
total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes it
possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.
• CCC 1372 St. Augustine admirably summed up this doctrine that moves us to an ever more
complete participation in our Redeemer's sacrifice which we celebrate in the Eucharist: This
wholly redeemed city, the assembly and society of the saints, is offered to God as a universal
sacrifice by the high priest who in the form of a slave went so far as to offer himself for us in
his Passion, to make us the Body of so great a head.... Such is the sacrifice of Christians:
"we who are many are one Body in Christ" the Church continues to reproduce this sacrifice in
the sacrament of the altar so well-known to believers wherein it is evident to them that in
what she offers she herself is offered. (St. Augustine, De civ Dei, 10, 6: PL 41, 283; cf. Rom 12:5.)
• CCC 1373 "Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right
hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: (Rom 8:34;
cf. LG 48.) in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name," (Mt
18:20.) in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, (Cf. Mt 25:31-46.) in the sacraments of which he is
the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present .
. . most especially in the Eucharistic species." (SC 7.)
• CCC 1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and
endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each
of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of
the bread does not divide Christ. (Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1641.)
• CCC 1378 Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real
presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting
or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered
and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass,
but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to
the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession." (Paul VI, MF 56.)
• CCC 1380 It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church
in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible
form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on
the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us
"to the end," (Jn 13:1.) even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains
mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, (Cf. Gal 2:20.) and
he remains under signs that express and communicate this love: The Church and the world
have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us
not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to
making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never
cease. (John Paul II, Dominicae cenae, 3.)
4. Patristic Commentary
• “I desire the Bread of God, the heavenly Bread, the Bread of Life, which is the flesh of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; I wish
the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.” (St. Ignatius
of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans 7.)
• “It is allowed to no one else to participate in that food which we call Eucharist except the one
who believes that the things taught by us are true, who has been cleansed in the washing
unto rebirth and the forgiveness of sins and who is living according to the way Christ handed
on to us. For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink. Just as our
Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our
salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made
through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are
nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh. Indeed, the
Apostles, in the records left by them which are called gospels, handed on that it was
commanded to them in this manner: Jesus, having taken bread and given thanks said, ``Do
this in memory of me, this is my body.'' Likewise, having taken the cup and given thanks, he
said, ``This is my blood'', and he gave it to them alone.” (St. Justin Martyr, Apologia I.66-67).
• “We must make oblation to God, and in all things be found pleasing to God the Creator, in
sound teaching, in sincere faith, in firm hope, in ardent love, as we offer the firstfruits of the
creatures that are his. The Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator when it
makes its offering to him from his creation, with thanksgiving. We offer him what is his, and
so we proclaim communion and unity and profess our belief in the resurrection of flesh and
spirit. Just as bread from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer
common bread but the Eucharist, made up of two elements, one earthly and one heavenly,
so also our bodies, in receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, for they have the
hope of resurrection.” (St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, 4.18.2)
• “Therefore with fullest assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the
figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by
partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mightest be made of the same body and the same
blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are
diffused through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, [2 Peter 1:4]”
(St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogic Catechesis, 4.1).
• “Blood was shed then for the salvation of the firstborn: it is shed now for the forgiveness of
sins of the whole world. This, he said, is my body, which is shed for the forgiveness of sins.
He said this both to teach his disciples the sacramental nature of his death upon the cross,
and also to comfort them.” (St. John Chrysostom Homilies on St. Matthew’s Gospel, 82).
• “I wish to add something that is plainly awe-inspiring, but do not be astonished or upset. This
Sacrifice, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul, is always the same as that which Christ
gave His disciples and which priests now offer: The offering of today is in no way inferior to
that which Christ offered, because it is not men who sanctify the offering of today; it is the
same Christ who sanctified His own. For just as the words which God spoke are the very
same as those which the priest now speaks, so too the oblation is the very same.” (St. John
Chrysostom, Homilies on the Second Epistle to Timothy, 2).
• “Let us be assured that this is not what nature formed, but what the blessing consecrated,
and that greater efficacy resides in the blessing than in nature, for by the blessing nature is
changed. . . . Surely the word of Christ, which could make out of nothing that which did not
exist, can change things already in existence into what they were not. For it is no less
extraordinary to give things new natures than to change their natures. . . . Christ is in that
Sacrament, because it is the Body of Christ; yet, it is not on that account corporeal food, but
spiritual. Whence also His Apostle says of the type: `For our fathers ate spiritual food and
drink spiritual drink.' [1 Cor 10:2-4] For the body of God is a spiritual body.” (St. Ambrose of
Milan, On the Mysteries, 9).
• “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But
what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice
the Blood of Christ. ... How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice,
how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one
thing is seen, but another is understood. What is seen is the corporeal species, but what is
understood is the spiritual fruit. ... `You, however, are the Body of Christ and His members.'
If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and His members, your mystery is presented at the
table of the Lord, you receive your mystery. To that which you are, you answer: `Amen'; and
by answering, you subscribe to it. For you hear: `The Body of Christ!' and you answer:
`Amen!' Be a member of Christ's Body, so that your `Amen' may be the truth.” (St. Augustine,
Sermons)
5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars
• St. Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1783) out of an ardent love for Jesus in the Blessed
Sacrament he would spend the greater part of the entire day in churches just to be near the
Blessed Sacrament, especially where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed or where 40
Hours Devotion was being observed. “In the presence of Jesus the internal fire of his heart
shone through his inflamed countenance…for his face, when he was not in prayer, being
colourless, pale, emaciated, and cadaverous, through his penitential life, it was wonderful to
see him before the Blessed Sacrament with a red colour, and often ecstatic and insensible to
exterior things.” (The Life of the Venerable Servant of God, Benedict Joseph Labre, in
“Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with the Saints”)
• Bl. Pier-Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) joined a nocturnal adoration group at the Royal
Polytechnic of Turin in 1919 and became most fervent member of the group. He would
spend long hours in adoration growing in his devotion and love for God. The long hours in
prayer became a time for Pier-Giorgio to be transformed by the mystery he contemplated.
His devotion to the poor is witness to this. “Jesus visits me everyday in Holy Communion. I
respond in the poor way I can in visiting his poor.”

6. Quotes

• “Jesus pronounces it [the key to the bread of life discourse] on Palm Sunday as he looks
ahead to the universal Church that will embrace Jews and Greeks—all the peoples of the
world: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it
bears much fruit’ (Jn 12:24). What we call ‘bread’ contains the mystery of the Passion.
Before there can be bread, the seed—the grain of wheat—first has to be placed in the earth,
it has to ‘die,’ and then the new ear can grow out of this death. Earthly bread can become
the bearer of Christ’s presence because it contains in itself the mystery of the Passion,
because it unites in itself death and resurrection.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth)
• “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and
resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and ‘the work of our
redemption is carried out.’ This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race
that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of
sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part
in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits.” (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)
• “By virtue of its close relationship to the sacrifice of Golgotha, the Eucharist is a sacrifice in
the strict sense, and not only in a general way, as if it were simply a matter of Christ’s
offering himself to the faithful as their spiritual food…In giving his sacrifice to the Church,
Christ has also made his own the spiritual sacrifice of the Church, which is called to offer
herself in union with the sacrifice of Christ. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican
Council concerning all the faithful: ‘Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the
source and summit of the whole Christian life, they offer the divine victim to God, and offer
themselves along with it’ (LG 11).” (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

7. Other Considerations
• One might consider the Eucharistic procession that follows the solemn Mass on this feast as
a sacramental expression of the life of the Christian that is Eucharistically centered. The
procession is lead by the head of the Church—Jesus Christ in his sacramental presence.
The incense and candles reflect the worship and prayer given by the body. The whole body
of the faithful follow the procession pointing to the moral formation that the Christian is to
draw from his Lord, walking with one heart and mind. Finally, the procession ends back at
the altar of sacrifice. This points to both the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of the
Christian life as well as the wedding of heaven and earth that takes place in the Eucharist.
Having Christ as his head, following him his path, united to him in prayer and praise, the
Eucharist leads the entire Body of Christ into the Kingdom of God.

Recommended Resources
Beale, G.K. and D.A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old
Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.
Friends of Henry Ashworth, eds. Christ Our Light: Readings on Gospel Themes. Vol. I. Ambler,
PA: Exordium Books, 1985.
Groeschel, Benedict J., C.F.R. and James Monti, Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with the
Saints. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2001.
O’Connor, James T. The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. San Francisco: Ignatius
Press, 1988.
Stein, Robert H., Mark. Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids:
Baker, 2008.
Von Balthazar, Hans Urns. Light of the Word. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993.