A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Archive for June, 2015

Developing the “perfect” body

Many of us are familiar with the idea that when two individuals want to enter into a very committed relationship, they shed blood with each other.  That is to say that the mixing of the blood enforces a covenant because the linkage between the parties is  sharing something living thereby guaranteeing the fulfillment of a pledge.  How many gangster movies have we seen where such a sharing commits one of the sharers to fulfill the pledge at hand?  Living blood tends to fulfill a promise.

The  feast of Corpus Christi (“Body of Christ”) ordinarily makes us think of the Eucharist, our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the host, the bread of life.  However, readings for the feast speak to us about the importance of blood, and of how necessary it is for the total body.  Simply put.  No blood.  No life.

In the first reading (Exodus 24:3-8), through the mediatorship of Moses, God has made a bi-lateral covenant with the people Israel.  He comes down from Mount Sinai, and in order to validate the covenant, he sprinkles part of the blood of sacrificial animals over an altar, and the rest over the people. After which Moses says “…See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:8)

In the second reading (Hebrews 9:11-15), we learn that it is the blood of Jesus, not that of animals, which has brought about our salvation.  We have a brief reminder during the crucifixion scene that a soldier threw a lance into the side of Jesus as he was dying on the cross, and both blood and water came out.  (John 19:33-34)

In the Gospel (Mark 14:12-26), Jesus with his disciples was preparing for the last supper before the trial-crucifixion-resurrection.  During the last supper Jesus takes bread and says, “Take it.  This my body.”  Then he took a cup of wine and passed it on to the disciples and said, “This is my blood of the covenant….”  Jesus identified the bread with his body, and the wine with his blood.  The reference to the covenant was to the covenant at Sinai, where the bi-lateral arrangement was made.  “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples….” (Exodus 19:5)

What we have seen in the above readings is that blood is a life giving source.  Hopefully, after every reception of the Eucharist (body and blood of Christ) we can become more assured that the sacrament can continue to be a life giving experience for us.

Serious nutritionists have told us that a good way to properly develop our bodies is to eat well. But if we are looking for ways to develop the spiritual side of our bodies, such as dealing with temptations, then what better way to do so than to receive the Eucharist?  “Perfection” could come much later, but its better to do what you can with what you’ve got.

 

 

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All for one, one for all

Of all the blessings we have received over the years, I think that one of the most important is the gift of “family.”  Fortunate those who were born into a loving and caring family–as I was.

When I was younger and had gone through some troublesome times, Mom and Dad were always there to help out in whatever way they could.  In fact, much of our value system was a product of their example and teaching.

The readings from Trinity Sunday (Deut. 4:32-40; Rom. 8:14-17; Matt. 28:16-20) strongly suggest that all of us, because of our Baptism, do belong to a loving and caring family, namely, the Holy Trinity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  What do I mean by that?

First, the Father.  The verse before the first reading (Deut. 4:32-40) points out the significance of the reading itself.  “For Yahweh your God is a compassionate God.  He will not fail you, nor will he destroy you.  He will not forget the covenant he made with your fathers.”  (Deut. 4:31)  Two key words surface: “compassion” and “covenant.”

The word compassionate comes from the Latin which means, “to suffer with.”  Much as our parents did when we got into trouble.  The word covenant really means a mutual relationship. This covenant refers to the Sinai covenant which was bi-lateral.  God and Israel committed themselves to each other. Our parents had their rules as well which we were meant to keep.

What this means is that the Father will suffer with us and do the best to help us out.  But if we have failed to keep our part of the bargain, then the responsibility is principally ours.  God acts like a compassionate, understanding, and responsible father.  (See Hos. 11:1-4 as an example)

Second, the Son.  The Gospel reading comes from the end of Matthew.  (Matt. 28: 16-20)  Jesus and some of his disciples  go to the mountain [remember that the mountain is the meeting place between heaven and earth.  So something special will happen.]  The special thing that happens is that there is a commissioning and a promise.

In this post-resurrectional experience, Jesus commissions those disciples to carry out his ministry as soon as he ascends into heaven.  The disciples are to continue Jesus’ministry through the medium of Baptism so that the people can understand the message.  Jesus also makes a promise.  This promise is that of a permanent presence until the end of time.

It seems that this “permanent presence” is a continuation of the Immanuel theme we saw during Advent.  “Immanuel” in Hebrew means “God with us.”  God became human in the person of Jesus Christ.  Now Jesus promises to “be with” his people forever.

One possible meaning of this is that Jesus has commissioned us also, through our Baptism, in order to carry out his ministry of service to others.  He has promised to be with us, principally through the Eucharist.

Third, the Holy Spirit.  In the second reading, from the letter of Paul to the Romans (Rom. 8:14-17), we read, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.  When we cry ‘Abba! Father‘ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ….”

We receive the Holy Spirit in a special way through our Baptism.  Paul makes it clear that we thus become adopted children and can call God “Abba” (which in Aramaic means “father”). During the Lord’s prayer at Mass we begin by saying, “Our Father….” (rightfully so) thus emphasizing our membership in the family of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Because of the Father we learn of compassion and our special relationship.  Because of the Son we learn of our commitment to carry forth his message and that he will be with us providing support during our daily struggles.  Because of the Holy Spirit we learn of our adoption as children of God and the right to call him “father.”  What a loving and caring family this could be!

 

 

 

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