We used to celebrate this day as Corpus Christi, or “The Body of Christ;” but now, more properly, we refer to it as the feast of “The Body and Blood of Christ.” Our Mass readings today call attention to the significance of Christ shedding his blood for us.
The first reading described the Old Covenant ceremony by which the Israelites became the People of God. Now, a covenant is a ceremony by which two parties are united as one. But that can only happen when there is no argument between them. So, for the people to be united with God they had to put away all sins keeping them apart. That had Moses calling out the Ten Commandments, and for each of them the people replied, “We will do everything the Lord has told us.”
For enacting the New Covenant the commandment Jesus laid down for us was simpler, but not easier. At the Last Supper Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Going back to the Old Covenant, while the people were calling out their obedience to the Ten Commandments there were young men with brass bowls of the blood of bulls going through the throng, sprinkling each person with blood, and then pouring some on God’s altar. The significance of that sprinkling and pouring of blood came from their old belief that blood was life itself. The blood on them and on God’s altar had them sharing one life as God’s own people.
The second reading is concerned with the blood of the New Covenant by which we become one people with Christ. It is not the blood of bulls, but the precious blood of Christ. He gave us his blood by shedding it drop by drop. Echoing that Old Testament ceremony with Moses and the blood of bulls, the blood of Christ makes us one people with him and with each other.
At the last Supper when Jesus gave the Apostles his body for food he did not say “This is my body which will be given.” What Matthew, Mark and Luke really wrote was , “This is my body which is being given. “ In his heart he was already dying. When we receive the body of Christ we are receiving the Lamb who is now giving up his precious life for us.