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.