Sunday: Would You Meet Jesus If You Could?
Corpus Christi 2014, Benedictine College campus.
Great Britain’s The Telegraph recently polled Britons about whom they would most want to meet from history. The one person most people wanted to meet? Jesus Christ.
We are fascinated with Jesus, and want to know what he was like. We would love to meet and talk to him, touch him and be with him.
But today’s first two readings (Corpus Christi Year B) raise an even more important reason that we want to meet Jesus: The very logic of our religion depends on our physical contact with him.
The first two readings form a kind of argument. It goes like this: God made his covenant with his chosen people by blood sacrifices; Jesus ended those sacrifices, subsuming them into his sacrifice “once for all” in his crucifixion.
Look at today’s first reading. It is the tale of the first covenant with God. Moses directed that animal sacrifices be made to the Lord, and the blood be sprinkled on the congregation. As Father Robert Spitzer explains in Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life: “Blood, the principle of life for the Israelites, was the vehicle through which atonement occurred in sin or guilt offerings.” The people had to have contact with the blood of the offering; that is what brought about their atonement.
St. Paul updated this picture in our second reading. “If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled … how much more will the blood of Christ” cleanse us, he says. Explains Father Spitzer: “Jesus’ reference to his sacrificial blood would almost inevitably be seen as the blood of a sin offering — with the notable exception that the sin offering is no longer an animal, but rather, Jesus, himself.”
But if Jesus’ blood is to save us, a problem arises: Why should that offering apply to anyone but the people who were alive in Jesus time? How can he save me and my family with his blood if that blood was shed long ago and is never anywhere near us?
Today’s Gospel answers that problem: Jesus sacrificed himself only once on the cross. But he made that one sacrifice available to his apostles the night before in the Eucharist. Not only that, he gave them the power to make that one sacrifice available to more and more people in the following days. By the continuation of the Eucharistic sacrifice he put each of us in the position to have saving contact with the blood of the new covenant.
So, if Jesus Christ is the “historical” person we want to meet … we can.
The most significant thing we remember about our encounters is often the “presence” of a person. We remember the gentleness, attentiveness and love of a priest. We remember the joyfulness, humility and gratitude of a religious sister. We remember being inspired by the mere presence of a Pope; we remember being thrilled by being in the same place as a great artist or political leader.
When we meet Jesus in the Eucharist we experience all those aspects of his personality — and we get soul-changing contact with his body and blood as well.