. . . against sin. And by blood we are redeemed.
Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, when we celebrate the two species of Holy Communion that we may receive, the Body and the Blood of Christ.
Today's Scripture readings are replete with blood and sacrifice. It seems morbid, violent even - but we are not to shy away from it.
A short time ago, I was sharing some good wine with a friend of mine. We were discussing the change of pastors at her parish in California, something that occurs with regularity this time of the year (most changes in assignments for priests and deacons take place on July 1st of any given year). I know this woman loved her old pastor, and so I was a bit startled when she said she was glad he was leaving.
"Really? But why? Father is a family friend!"
She frowned at our two glasses, now empty. I poured us more wine as she spoke. "Yes, but . . ."
"But what?" I asked.
My friend sighed. "He is a nice guy. He is a good priest. But, I am ready for a change. I want someone who is more . . . orthodox. Not to say I want someone yelling fire and brimstone from the pulpit, but someone who is unafraid to talk about - I mean, really talk about - sin."
My friend took a sip of wine, then looked at me. "I need it."
"And so?" I asked.
"And so, I want a priest who realizes what we are up against."
This conversation came to mind at today's Mass, listening to Scripture and then to the very fine Homily delivered by the deacon. Today was about blood, and the difference between a contract and a covenant. The deacon used Dr. Scott Hahn's definition of covenant, to mean an exchange of persons. Thus, through history, we see an evolving covenant between Man and God, one that in the Old Testament involved animal sacrifice, continuing until in today's first reading, both the altar and the people are washed with blood.
|Will you partake of that last offered cup?|
-- "When The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash
How much further can that go?
The answer, of course, is in the New Testament - when Christ, wholly divine and wholly human, becomes the sacrifice. And by His blood our sins are forgiven.
The second reading, St. Paul's letters to the Hebrews, states:
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
My friend has had enough being given simply the blood of goats and bulls - she wants the blood of Christ. And to have that, she wants to be readied to receive His sacrifice in Holy Eucharist. But the blood of animals is not enough to place her in the requisite state of grace to do so. It is good that she recognizes this, and I know she has sought spiritual counseling from others and from other sources in recognition that the fight against sin is not easy - and can be a bloody battle, literally if not only figuratively - and wants to know that her priest will pick up whatever tools are necessary to eradicate sin.
And not simply pack the meat.
Today's Scriptural imagery can be disturbing to some. Don't be afraid.
Happy Feast of Corpus Christi.