1st Reading: Exodus 24: 3-8
Why was it necessary to ratify a covenant in blood? The fact that the covenant was sealed in blood indicated not only that it was an agreement to follow the Law, it was also an agreement to allow it to be the center of life – it was an agreement to share life. Recall that blood was a sign of life force – life was believed to reside in the blood. The people were willing to enter into covenant, an intimate binding relationship, with Yahweh. The blood ritual only took place once. It would not be repeated again until the blood sacrifice of Jesus (W&W Wkbk Yr. B, p. 759).
What rings true for you in this reading, since we don’t go around throwing blood? It does show great commitment to try and follow God’s will. But there is no way to absolutely know what God’s will is for us. As we pray and discern, we try to figure it out. Participating in Eucharist – remembering the blood sacrifice of Christ – keeps us on the path. Does Eucharist help you feel closer to God?
2nd Reading: Hebrews 9: 11-15
Thoughts from Prof. Dr. Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Benedict XVI) Theology of the Cross from his book: Einfuhrung in das Christentum (Introduction to Christianity):
In many devotional books we encounter the idea that Christian faith in the cross is belief in a God whose unforgiving justice demands a human sacrifice – the sacrifice of his own son. This somber and angry God contradicts the Good News of God’s love and makes it unbelievable. Many people picture things this way, but it is false. In the Bible, the cross is not part of a picture of violated rights; the cross is far more the expression of a life which is a ‘being for others.’
This is an appalling picture of God, as one who demanded the slaughter of his own son in order to assuage his anger. Such a concept of God has nothing to do with the New Testament. The New Testament does not say that human beings reconcile God; it says that God reconciles us.
The fact that we are saved ‘through his blood’ (Hebrew 9:12) does not mean that his death is an objective sacrifice… In world religions, the notion which dominates is that of the human being making restitution to God in order to win God‘s favor. But in the New Testament the picture is the exact opposite. It is not the human being who goes to God, to bring him a compensatory gift or sacrifice; rather, it is God who comes to human beings with a gift to give us. The cross is not the act of offering satisfaction to an angry God. Rather, it is the expression of the boundless love of God, who undergoes humiliation in order to save us.
Christian worship is not the act of giving something to God; rather, it is the act of allowing ourselves to receive God’s gift, and to let God do this for us.
In traditional reflections on the passion, the question turns up again and again: what is the relationship between pain and sacrifice? And it was often assumed that the intensity of Jesus’ pain gave it salvific value. But how could God take pleasure in human pain, or find in it the reconciling act which must be offered to him? If this picture were true, then it would be Jesus’ executioners who make the sacrificial offering . . . but in Jesus God’s creative mercy makes the sinful human being belong to him, giving life to the dead.
What do we think of this in relation to the reading?
The Gospel: Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu: In Jesus’ culture grain, oil, and wine were the staples, with grain and its products – especially bread – being most important. Bread provided about ½ the caloric intake for the ancient Mediterranean world, with wheat being considered superior to barley and sorghum, the food of the poor.
Another point from John Pilch: Drawing water and carrying it was a woman’s task in Jesus’ culture. Any man present at a well would be a challenge to the honor of all the fathers, brothers, and husbands in that village. If a man did carry water it was in a skin not a jar. This man carrying a water jar was certainly a cultural anomaly: easy to spot.
In Jesus, God has come to be with us where we are. To proclaim the death of the Lord is to find in his death a new definition of ourselves – a new understanding of the meaning of success and failure, of the meaning of life and death, of what it means to be a human person . . . the Eucharist is the call which frees each of us from the false self, the most tyrannical master of all . . . At Eucharist we become gifts of God to be enjoyed and put at the service of the neighbor. We are freed from the radical insecurity and false pride that is at the heart of all evil. We are freed to be realistic and intelligent about how we use the gifts God has given us while recognizing that our true call is to find life by giving it away . . . (John Dwyer, The Sacraments, “Chapter Eight: the Eucharist” p.129-130)
The Hebrew word for the Greek anamnesis is zikkaron, meaning a sacrificial term that brings the offerer into remembrance before God, or brings God into favorable remembrance with the offerer. When Jesus took the bread and wine and offered it, he was identifying with the Israelites and their covenant. He was being a good Jew. He was making a new covenant, saying, “I am united with my ancestors. This is now me. I am Passover.” So now the Church identifies herself with Christ. We are Christ to the world. Now it’s our turn to be united in covenant with God and give of ourselves. Like the Israelites, it will move us from captivity to freedom, from sin to repentance (taken from Fr. Vosko lecture).