Instead of commentary on all the readings for this Palm Sunday, here is an opportunity to reflect on portions of the Gospel and 2nd reading as they pertain to Eucharist.
Let us pray from the Intercessions of Morning Prayer of Holy Thursday.…
As we contemplate the mystery of Jesus’ gift of himself to us, let us pray:
Save your people, Lord.
You are present in the mystery of your Cross embodied in the Eucharist. Bring all peoples into communion with your redeeming love.
Save your people, Lord.
You offer the world new life in the waters of baptism. Be present to those who are preparing for baptism.
Save your people, Lord.
You strengthen the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit. Inspire with fervor those who are preparing for confirmation.
Save your people, Lord.
You anoint in your likeness new servants of the Gospel. Renew in love all those who are ordained to the diaconate, priesthood and episcopacy.
Save your people, Lord.
You unite in love those whom you have called to mirror your love for the Church in marriage. Fortify the bonds of love that bind all married couples.
Save your people, Lord.
You reconcile to God all those who have gone astray in sin. Cleanse and heal those who desire to return to you.
Save your people, Lord.
You strengthen all those who are called to adhere to your Cross in sickness. Comfort the sick and those who care for them.
Save your people, Lord.
You give yourself as food for the journey to all those who face the passage from death to life. Enlighten the dying.
Save your people, Lord.
O Lord, gather us in holiness around the table of the Cross, that together we may proclaim your saving love to all the world in word and in work, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians (2: 6-11)
The reading from the Gospel according to Mark (14: 12 – 26)
Reflection Questions from Moment By Moment: A Retreat in Everyday Life:
- What do I remember about my initial experiences of the eucharist? How have those experiences influenced the significance I give to the eucharist in my adult life?
- How does being part of a community of believers help me to make the continued act of faith which the eucharist requires?
- What have reverent moments of receiving the eucharist taught me about intimacy?
- Have I made the connections between eucharist and service which are shown by Jesus at the Last Supper? Do I experience the eucharist as strengthening me to serve as Jesus did?
- In what ways am I bread that is broken and shared with others on a daily basis?
“Throughout the week we can feel and express our gratitude. We can experience, in the midst of very hectic and messy times, a peace the world cannot give. All week – whether we are driving or walking from one place to another, or pouring a cup of coffee, or simply pausing to catch our breath – we can hear him say, ‘I have given you an example; do this in memory of me.’ He is broken and poured out, to completely give himself to our very human struggle that we might be whole and ourselves become bread for our world, “ (Retreat in the Real World, p. 243).
Let us pray…
May the cross be upon our foreheads
that we may ponder its meaning.
May the cross be upon our ears,
that we may listen attentively to God’s Word.
May the cross be upon our eyes,
that we may see God’s love in this world and in those around us.
May the cross be upon our nostrils
that the smells of this earth open us
to the mysteries of God’s goodness and other’s needs.
May the Cross be upon our lips,
that we may speak God’s love and mercy in our words.
May the cross be upon our shoulders,
that we may carry our cross and embrace the challenges of life
with the love and wisdom of Jesus.
May the cross be upon our hands,
that we may serve others as Jesus did. AMEN
Have you ever noticed the chalice that is used in Mass causes a reflection? Some of the cups are colored or muted, but the gold cups in particular act as a mirror. When Father Bob holds it up during the consecration, I can see the congregation in the cup. When it is on the table, I can see the book of prayers and other vessels for Mass. And when I go up for communion and receive the cup, I see myself.
It reminds me of other mirrors. The mirror on my van reflects things as bigger than they actually are. The mirror in my hallway tells me whether I’m going to stick with the first outfit I put on or a later rendition. The mirror in the parish office is one way, so inside I can see people coming in but they can’t see me. Most of these mirrors have a purpose of showing me something I need to know. They reflect information.
But the chalice is different. It reflects who we are to become, and that is Jesus. Everything that cup holds and brings forth is Jesus. As Catholics, we believe we receive Jesus in the bread and wine. Jesus wants us to look at his whole life, death and resurrection; and then, we should take that leap and say yes to all of it. We drink it in. We say yes to our belief in it and say yes to our living it.
So seeing what the chalice reflects is powerful. We aren’t just seeing ourselves but Christ who is in us. It is a glimpse of how God sees us, really. We drink the wine and we are given a message. God is saying, “Look! Look what love does! Now go do it!” Father Bob raises the chalice that is Jesus within and, as a community, we have the capacity to mirror Him.
Eucharist is more than bread and wine. It is an action. We are Eucharist-ing. We are like the cup itself, holding Christ and reflecting Christ. We share in this mission together at Mass. We are communing. And then we are sent forth (The word Mass comes from the Latin missa, or to go, sent forth.). As we attempt to come and follow Jesus, be strengthened by what Jesus gave us. Jesus gave His very self, and wants us to be His living mirrors.
How might you reflect Jesus this week?
Editor’s note 5/28/2019: I’ve been thinking about this post again, because I was recently reminded that mirrors fully receive what is in front of them. Mirrors completely receive just as the onlooker completely receives the reflection. This is another layer of the mirroring that happens at Eucharist. We must be truly present in order to receive true presence. And by doing that, we are fully received.
1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 2: 14, 22-23
This really takes place after Pentecost in ‘Luke’s story’. This is an example of typical early Christian preaching. There are 4 parts to the early ‘kerygma’ or ‘creed’:
1. Jesus was a man sent by God.
2. Jesus was a man empowered by God to overcome evil.
3. Jesus was a man who was betrayed, who suffered and died.
4. Jesus was then raised and vindicated by God.
This ‘sermon’ is given here by Peter, now transformed by the Spirit of Risen Christ. Peter who slept in the garden and then denied Jesus in fear now proclaims the same Jesus with joy and power. Here is the power of Jesus’ Resurrection! Peter challenges all of us to be so transformed.
The early Christians turned to their Scriptures, just as we do, to help them understand the happenings in their lives. Here Peter uses Psalm 16, and so it was chosen to be the psalm for this Sunday (our closing prayer). Notice how it is about Jesus – and about us.
It was impossible for Jesus to be held in captivity by death; this is what Peter declares to his listeners. Christ could not be held by death because in his cross he had overcome it. Death – theologically, at least – is our ultimate separation from God the source of life. Jesus was not held by death because of some abstract quality of divinity; it was his complete obedience to the will of God (trusting, listening obedience) that kept him more convinced always of God’s love than the evil and suffering around him. It was not some magic act due to his divine powers. It was this trust and obedience that overcame human alienation and separation from God (what is meant by sin and death). (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu ) Do you experience this in your life? Name what may be holding you down that is not life-giving…raise it up to Jesus and trust that He will be with you in deciding what to do about it.
2nd Reading – 1 Peter 1: 17-21
The great Easter truth is not that we live newly after death . . .But that we are to be new, here and now, by the power of the resurrection; not so much that we are to live forever, as that we are to live nobly now because we are to live forever. (Phillip Brooks)
In this passage we have to be careful not to take the language of ‘ransom’ and ‘blood’ too literally. The language is somewhat crude and cultic, but it is meant to speak of the liberation that we as Christians have as we come to understand the meaning and consequence of Jesus’ death. His blood speaks of Jesus’ total surrender and trust to his Father’s will and life. In this trust Jesus found the way through death to eternal life with his Father and our God. There is fear here on this side of the grave. But, like Jesus, let us surround our fears with trust in the God who loves us and has ultimate power over death. (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
From Richard Rohr: “We can’t see love, but we can see what happens to someone who is loved – the power and gentleness of those who let themselves be loved by Jesus, endless life, welling up within . . . “
From Carl Sagan: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
The Gospel – Luke 24: 13 – 35
Each time we gather for Eucharist we experience this Emmaus story. It is a ‘pattern’ for Eucharist and for conversion. We share the story of Jesus. We invite the stranger, invoke a blessing, and share a meal. In this breaking of the bread our eyes are opened; our hearts come alive with a new fire. Here on this side of the grave and eternity, we can know Jesus; we can experience his presence. Our hearts can burn with the insight and encounter that comes to us from our Lord, a reality we can trust. (Celebration, April, 2005)
These two disciples are leaving their faith community. They do not even place much credence in the ‘women’s testimony’ concerning the empty tomb. In fact, it seems that it is this very testimony that motivates them to leave. They are hitting the road, deep in confusion. Yet, Jesus joins them. This story is sort of a metaphor about how God deals with someone who has gone away; perhaps it is also an image of how we are to deal with each other in our unbelief. It is a story of paradoxes – of faith and crisis, of distance and closeness, of seeing and blindness, of light and darkness. Sometimes it is only as we look back – when we ponder and reflect – that we realize that God’s presence and closeness was real. And so, present with him at the table, they finally recognize the gift of the presence that was there all along, walking away, talking away, wondering why, telling their woe, hearing his story once again. Maybe their sense of loss, their longing for hope, was hope. Maybe even their desire to believe was believing — even their longing to love was love. Maybe the God-we-find-in-Jesus can see all the way through to our broken hearts and clouded minds. It happened back then on the road – it can and will happen to us also on our road of life if we but welcome his presence. (John Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Engaged” http://litrugy.slu.edu )
Notice that at the moment of ‘open-eyed’ recognition of Jesus, he vanishes from their sight. Luke’s point is clear: from that time on, the disciples would meet Jesus, know him, be fed and taught by him at every Eucharistic encounter. And in a sense their ‘vision’ is so improved that they find it no problem to journey back to Jerusalem at night – full of joy and energy. (Celebration, April 2005)
From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, pp. 95- 97:
For communion with Jesus means becoming like him . . . And Communion creates community. Christ, living in them, brought them together in a new way. The Spirit of the risen Christ, which entered them through the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup, not only helped them recognize Christ himself but also each other . . . the God living in us helps us recognize the God in our fellow humans . . . this new body is fashioned by the Spirit of love. It manifests itself in very concrete ways: in forgiveness, reconciliation, mutual support, outreach to people in need,
solidarity with all who suffer . . .
There is a burning of our hearts when we know something is deeply true. Can you recall those moments of burning in your heart?
1st Reading – Genesis 14: 18 – 20
Melchizedek is mentioned in only three places in scripture: this reading plus Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20-7:22. He is said to be the king of Salem; its name means peace. This place becomes the city of Jerusalem, the center of Israel’s kingdom.
It was customary for a king to be hospitable toward a victorious leader, but there are no ulterior motives here. Instead, there is a beautiful blessing ritual, to which Abram gives thanks. Note that Abram did not take his victory greedily. He only wanted to save his nephew Lot and retrieve the possessions that were taken from him. For the victory and the blessing, he gives thanks to God. How do you give thanks to god for the victories and blessings in your life?
Later Christian writers would evoke this episode in history and consider it a prefigurement of Christ. Jesus would offer the blessing of his life – the effect would be irrevocable and would be the gift of God’s self to the entire world – redemption. (Birmingham, W&W, p. 560-561).
In exchange for the blessing, Abram offers a tenth of everything. In Eucharist, we offer ourselves to Christ just as Christ offered Christself. We are doing as He said to do. What does this mean for you? What do you offer?
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
This is the earliest written account (maybe 53-55 AD) of Jesus’ Last Supper and the words that have become our Eucharistic prayer.
From Celebration, June 1998:
Eucharist is about a remembering (anamnesis) that does not simply call to mind the past events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Eucharist makes present here and now, within the gathered assembly of believers, the reality of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. Each Eucharist is a “living remembrance of Jesus’ act of love.” By our participation (offering our ‘hungry selves’, hearkening to God’s Word, sharing peace, and then eating and drinking) in the Eucharist, believers proclaim and are integrated into that death and are given a taste of the resurrected life to come.
We “proclaim the death of the Lord” . . . What does this mean? In Eucharist Christ comes to us as the one in whom God participates in the emptiness and negativity of life, as the one in whom God accepts us in the most unrestricted way possible, and as the one who in virtue of this acceptance, lays claim to all that we are and can be. The Eucharist is not simply a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus or the fact that he now lives. Rather, it is a celebration of the fact that it is the crucified one who now lives; it is a celebration of the God who came into the brokenness, the ‘unwholeness’ and the unholiness’ of the human situation, and who came to stay. 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. (John Dwyer, The Sacraments, “Chapter Eight: the Eucharist” p.129-130)
The Gospel – Luke 9: 11-17
It is important to place this gospel story within the context of the overall gospel of Luke. Chapter 9 had started with Jesus commissioning the Twelve and sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. After they go out Luke tells us of Herod’s curiosity about Jesus: “I beheaded John. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Then the Twelve return. They withdraw in private to Bethsaida, but the crowds follow Jesus, and yet, he welcomed them . . . here then, is where the gospel story begins. It ends with a superabundance of satisfying food.
From “Working with the Word,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
Too often we narrowly view Eucharist in the context of the Last Supper and its elements of bread and wine. This gospel expands our perception to include the whole event of hungering, and then gathering, blessing, breaking, giving, eating, and being satisfied. Evil diminishes life and enslaves people; God’s kingdom restores life and liberates them from hunger – ‘malnutrition’ and oppression. This story illustrates Jesus’ Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, the kingdom is yours . . . and the hungry will be satisfied.
It is at Eucharist that we experience most intimately the communion of saints. Communion of saints in Greek is koinōnia hagiōn. Koinōnia is any partnership, fellowship, activity, experience or relationship where people come together. It is togetherness for mutual benefit and goodness (Barclay, The Apostles Creed p. 245). Hagiōn literally means sacred things, hagiōi meaning members of the Church as saints, or sacred people (p. 247). Imagine the sacred things as being that which we share in Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus. In that sense, we are sharing sacred things as a communion (koinōnia) of sacred people. In the Byzantine liturgy, the priest says, “Holy things for holy people” at the distribution of Holy Communion (Shannon, Catholic Update May 2005, p.4). We become the body of Christ.
In the book With God in Russsia by Walter Ciszek (an autobiography of a Jesuit priest), he recounts being in Poland in a concentration camp and celebrating Mass. It was forbidden to do so, so it had to be done in secret. Fasting before Eucharist from the midnight before was common practice then. Since the inmates were only given 2 meals of gruel a day, giving up the morning meal was a true sacrifice. If guards did not make it possible to celebrate at the scheduled time, they may go even longer without eating. So this priest and those he celebrated Mass with truly held Eucharist in deep, deep faith (Nolan, Hungry, and You Fed Me, p. 273-275). Consider this as you receive Eucharist this week.
Let us pray from John Phillip Newell
Clear our heart, O God, that we may see you.
Clear our heart, O God,
that we may truly see ourselves.
See our heart, O God,
that we may know the sacredness of this moment
and in every moment
as the Living Presence in every presence.
Clear our heart, O God,
that we may see. Amen
A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (14:22-25)
22 While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take it,” he said, “this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and handed it to them; and they all drank from it. 24 Jesus said, “This is my blood which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God’s covenant. 25 I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine in the Kingdom of God.”
Julian of Norwich said, “We are not just made by God. We are made of God.” Eucharist is an offering. Christ offers Christself to us, and we offer in return. It is meant to be a flow. There is a divine love that is freely given. We enter into it and it changes us. It doesn’t just flow in. What happens to water when it grows stagnant? It is meant to then flow out. We must allow God within us to flow out of us. How is this shown in Babette’s Feast?
“How then can we, in the midst of our ordinary lives, drink our cup, the cup of sorrow and the cup of joy? How can we fully appropriate what is given to us? Somehow we know that when we do not drink our cup and thus avoid the sorrow as well as the joy of living, our lives become inauthentic, insincere, superficial, and boring…We can choose to drink the cup of our life with the deep conviction that by drinking it we will find our true freedom. Thus, we will discover that the cup of sorrow and joy we are drinking is the cup of salvation.” Henri Nouwen in Can You Drink the Cup? Does Babette do this? What about the townspeople?
What is God’s covenant? How does God’s covenant make a difference in your life?
Let us pray
Christ, come into our lives.
Come into our lives and make us into something new.
Help us find joy in this newness.
Help us use this joy in our lives
and in the lives of those we around us
Let us pray from David Fleming, SJ
Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
but hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings
shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day comes,
when, with your saints,
I may praise you forever. AMEN
A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (24:13-35)
13 On that same day two of Jesus’ followers were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,14 and they were talking to each other about all the things that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed, Jesus himself drew near and walked along with them; 16 they saw him, but somehow did not recognize him. 17 Jesus said to them, “What are you talking about to each other, as you walk along?”
They stood still, with sad faces. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have been happening there these last few days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “This man was a prophet and was considered by God and by all the people to be powerful in everything he said and did. 20 Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he was crucified. 21 And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened. 22 Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb, 23 but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. 24 Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! 26 Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?” 27 And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther; 29 but they held him back, saying, “Stay with us; the day is almost over and it is getting dark.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 He sat down to eat with them, took the bread, and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and gave it to them.31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up at once and went back to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples gathered together with the others 34 and saying, “The Lord is risen indeed! He has appeared to Simon!”
35 The two then explained to them what had happened on the road, and how they had recognized the Lord when he broke the bread.
Oh, for the pleasure of a meal with friends! Friendship is a kind of sacrament all its own. We share histories with our friends. We tell the story of our lives and find common ground. And when we come together, we share food. The warmth and comfort of a meal reflects the nature of our relationship with one another. We celebrate the union of our hearts around the table. In the unique gathering of our Eucharist, we also acknowledge the great story of God and our relationship with the Holy One through Jesus Christ. Our eyes are opened in this meal to recognize the common ground we hold with Divinity: the reign of God itself. Our friendship with God through Christ is true yesterday, today, and forever. This is what our faith means. Everything we need to know about God is in this meal (“Exploring the Sunday Readings”, Ap 1999, A). How do we see this in the film?
Eucharist is a unique sacrament because it is what it does. We participate in it and then become it. It is a revelation. God reveals Godself to us in Eucharist as we reveal ourselves. We commune. What is being revealed in this film?
Let us pray
Jesus, our friend,
How often do you do reveal yourself to us
and we don’t notice?
Open our minds and hearts
so we may see you in the multitude of ways
that you come to us.
May our seeing set our hearts on fire
to be fully who we are meant to be
and fully do what we are meant to do. AMEN
Let us pray from St. Teresa of Avila
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours. AMEN
A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (7:36-50)
36 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to [a]dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And there was a woman in the city who was a [b]sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a [c]sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he [d]replied, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred[e]denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say [f]to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
There is quite a contrast between the Pharisee and the woman, one showing hospitality and the other refraining from it. With Pharisees being so accustomed to rules, you would think it would be the other way around. But it is the woman who greets Jesus by kissing him, washing his feet and using an oil to refresh. These were customary things to do when a guest arrived, but the Pharisee does none of them. Why is that? Maybe he admired Jesus but didn’t want to show it out of fear, but this seems unlikely with his rude behavior. Maybe he was hoping to catch him in doing something wrong so he could charge him, yet he does call him rabbi/teacher. He probably collected celebrities, and Jesus seemed to be the latest fad (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, p. 93). This story is an example of people not always seeming on the outside what they are on the inside. This will be shown in Babette’s Feast as well. How does Eucharist transform us? How does Eucharist teach us to be our true selves?
“It is true to say that the greatest of sins is to be conscious of no sin; but a sense of need will open the door to the forgiveness of God, because God is love, and love’s greatest glory is to be needed,” (p. 94). This woman showed great need for Jesus. She wasn’t afraid to step into a place where she wasn’t supposed to be, hair unbound, and pour herself over Jesus. She uses no words, but her actions speak for her. Consider how approaching Eucharist would touch our hearts more if we showed great need for it like this woman. Consider the needs of the people in this film as well.
In Jesus’ parable, he points out how we like things to be fair and just. The man with the greater debt must love the moneylender more because he was forgiven more. Jesus tells this story in reference to the woman and why she is lavishing him with love. But who does the moneylender love more? He forgives both debts equally. That is how God’s love works. We love imperfectly, in the best way we know how. Note how love works in this film too. And in receiving Eucharist, we are all called to the table, no matter how worthy.
Let us pray
How often do we hold back, Lord?
We sometimes find ourselves
not coming to you
because we are not worthy, or ready,
to receive you.
Heal us. Open us to your presence
so that we might see
your great love for us
exactly as we are.
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 is 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 blinding relationship, with Yahweh. The blood ritual only took place once. It would not be repeated again until the blood sacrifice of Jesus.
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. It does please God that we try to be in relationship with God. Participating in Eucharist-remembering the blood sacrifice of Christ-is one way we are able to do this. How do you decipher God’s will? Does Eucharist help you feel closer to God?
2nd Reading: Hebrews 9: 11-15
Thoughts from Prof. Dr. Joseph Ratzinger’s 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. **Joseph Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI.
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.
From Celebration, June 1998:
Eucharist is about a remembering (anamnesis) that does not simply call to mind the past events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Eucharist makes present here and now, within the gathered assembly of believers, the reality of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. Each Eucharist is a “living remembrance of Jesus’ act of love.” By our participation (offering our ‘hungry’ selves, hearkening to God’s Word, and then eating and drinking) in the Eucharist, believers proclaim and are integrated into that death and are given a taste of the resurrected life to come.
At Eucharist we say that we “proclaim the death of the Lord” . . .
What does this mean? The Eucharist is always about the paschal mystery – about a dying and a rising. We, like Jesus, must become a body for others. Giving of ourselves is a type of death – but out of it comes new life for our selves and for others. The gift of Jesus’ very self demands a response from us; it demands a response that is our selves. (It is also good to reflect how sharing from both the bread and wine – the body and the blood of Christ – is a much fuller celebration of Eucharist. The body is the real self of the Risen Christ and the blood is the life force of this Risen Christ– “We eat his Body and drink his Blood as sign that, nourished by him, we are now able to lay down our own bodies [our very selves] and pour out our own blood [our life force] so that salvation [fullness of life] comes to others.” (Living Liturgy, 2004, 150-152)
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).
I was outside yesterday, eating an apple and listening to a bird’s evening song. The apple tasted so good to me as I crunched into it, and I was amazed at how the bird could make so many different sounds in such a little body. I felt a deep sense of gratitude and God’s presence in that small moment. And it struck me how important physical presence is to all of us. I was enjoying all of my senses…the taste of the apple, the sound of the bird, the warmth and beauty of the sun (finally-sun!!), and the smells of summer approaching. We like our senses to be involved in the meaning of things. It’s a reality check. Yes. I am here on this planet and I have the senses to prove it. I am earthed. There is a security in that.
In that moment of gratitude, I felt God with me in it. So God became real to me too. There’s no hocus pocus, no vision, no supernatural encounter. God just came to mind and was present with me. It made me think about how important it is that Jesus came to us. We read in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” God in a body. It’s a reality check. Jesus was here on this planet and had the senses to prove it. He was earthed. God incarnate.
We need that. We need to know and feel that physical presence. The realness comforts us. It bring us together. It’s why we gather at Eucharist. It reminds us again that Jesus was here. He is here. We walk up to the altar, we eat the bread, we hold the cup and drink the wine, we hear the music, we smell the smells. All of the senses activated so that it becomes real to us. Jesus is real, earthed. Eucharist is a reality check, like our other God moments. And we are physically part of it. Wow, all of this because I was eating an apple outside.