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Jesus’ Blood-Brothers and Sisters
by Birgit Oberhofer | June 7, 2012
Scripture Reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Blood of Christ (Sunday, June 10, 2012)
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Reflecting on the readings for this Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi, I realized that when I think of Communion or the Eucharist I think a lot more of the “bread” than the cup – or chalice. It is much easier for me to relate to the symbolic meaning of “bread” as the many grains made one in the loaf of bread and nourishing us spiritually through the communion with Christ’s body. But this Sunday’s readings talk a lot more about “blood” and its meaning for the first covenant under Moses - and the new covenant in Jesus Christ.
In one of the commentaries the author explains that in the time of the Old Testament, blood was the “life source” and the closest thing to God as the source of all life. Blood offered to God and shared with the people meant that they were bonded, united to God and with each other. And this is exactly what the First Reading from the book of Exodus is about: The people of Israel were sprinkled with the blood of animal offerings to ratify that God had spoken and that the people heard and agreed to it all. Young bulls are sacrificed and Moses takes some of the blood to pour it over the altar he had erected. The altar represents the holiness of the God who has spoken to the people of Israel. Moses then sprinkles some of the blood on the people as a sign of their acceptance of what they have heard and their agreement to it. The people received the blood as a sign of their new life as God’s chosen people.
This meaning of “blood” as a sign of bonding with and commitment to each other made me think of stories like the one of Winnetou, the fictional chief of the tribe of the Apaches and his white friend, Old Shatterhand – both characters in a very popular German novel written by Karl May (1842–1912). After some initial dramatic events they became blood-brothers and eventually had to save each other’s lives several times throughout the story.
In the Bible – and in literature – “blood” stands for sacrifice, for purity of heart and for commitment. Moses sealed the first covenant between the Lord and the people of Israel with blood to express their total commitment to carry out its term.
Obviously there is a very strong connection between the First Reading from Exodus and the two readings from the New Testament. - And this connection is very powerful.
The Second Reading and the Gospel describe Jesus as the One who establishes a NEW covenant, “not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” In the passage that comes after today’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews (Heb 9:19-21), the story from the book of Exodus where Moses sprinkles the blood over the people of Israel is quoted, followed by an explanation why the covenant has to be sealed with blood: “According to the law almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb 9:22)
And forgiveness, redemption, was the ultimate goal of Jesus’ mission and it eventually did cost him his life. Unlike the Jewish high priest who performed an annual sacrifice in remembrance of the first covenant, Jesus offered the single sacrifice of himself as final annulment of sin. With this unrepeatable sacrifice he achieved our redemption once and for all.
On this Sunday on which we celebrate the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ”, we are invited to reflect on this overwhelming love that God has shown for us through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Drinking Jesus “blood” makes us participants in the new and final covenant with God. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist we have become part of Christ’s salvific mission. – We have become Jesus “blood-brothers and sisters”. With the ultimate sacrifice in his passion and death he has shown his absolute commitment to us. Are we absolutely committed to Him?
Birgit Oberhofer is originally from Munich, Germany where she graduated from Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität with a Master of Arts in Education Science, Psychology and Theology in 1999. After two years of formation in Italy she became a consecrated member of the Focolare Movement, a lay ecclesial movement, living in one of their houses in Cologne, Germany. There she worked as a program developer and grant writer for one of the biggest charity organizations in Germany, running programs in the field of Adult Formation and Social Work. In December 2007 she moved to Chicago and became the Assistant Director of Catholics on Call in July 2008.