We are deep into the magnificent, mystical Letter to the Hebrews, a text that has been for the past several days identifying connections between the Israelite temple of the Old Testament and the Church’s temple of the New Testament.
For those who find the Letter to the Hebrews too esoteric, I mentioned last week to think about the content of the text in terms of your experience of the Mass- what the Letter to the Hebrews describes in words, the Mass shows you in ritual, gesture, symbol and Sacrament. The Mass is a living representation of the ideas presented in the Letter to the Hebrews.
Today’s excerpt from the Letter to the Hebrews places an emphasis on the Blood of Jesus, an emphasis that is meant to connect Christ’s Blood to the blood that was offered in the Israelite temple, blood that would be literally sprinkled upon the people as part of the sacrificial ritual. Blood was not for the Israelites simply a biological reality, but a spiritual reality- blood is, according to the Law of Moses “the life”, meaning a divine gift, which belonged to God. Covenants were “cut” in flesh, marked in blood, because flesh and blood represented the most sacred of gifts from God- life itself.
Therefore the Blood of Christ has even deeper significance than that of the blood sacrifices of the Israelite temple, because it is, literally, God’s life, the divine life itself, given by God himself as a means of establishing a covenant, that it, a relationship between God and humanity.
The blood sacrifices of the Israelite temple were merely a symbol of the reality of Christ’s Blood. What the blood sacrifices of the Israelite temple signified or foreshadowed, the Church delivers to us in the sacrifice of the Mass.
The Precious Blood of the Lord Jesus is presented to us as a sign of his covenant (relationship) with us during the Mass. Holy Communion is not communion (relationship) with a symbol of Christ, but with his real, living divine presence, given to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood.
What we receive in the Blessed Sacrament is the divine life and presence of the Lord Jesus. The Blessed Sacrament is not a symbol of Christ or a perfunctory gesture that indicates a vague association with the Church as an institution or as a right that comes to us from ethnicity or culture.
The Blessed Sacrament is essential to the reality of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Without it, that relationship lacks his Blood, lacks the living source of Christ’s divine life.
As you can see, we are given an extraordinary gift and opportunity in the Church. God is not at a distance from us nor are we at a distance from God, but we are invited to know Christ personally, share a relationship with him, and to do so in a way that is a matter of his living Body and Blood.
This gift is the light that Christ wants to illuminate the darkness that has enveloped a world that dwells in the sadness of its belief that God is distant or has abandoned us.
It is our mission to bear this light into the world, which means seeking out ways to invite people to share the relationship with the Lord Jesus that we have ourselves. In fact, the Gospel is clear, if we do not share what we have received from Christ, his gift to us evanesces, dissipates, disappears…
You can’t share something you don’t have- you can’t introduce people to someone you don’t know. You can’t give what you haven’t received.
Do you know Christ? Have you received Christ? If you do and you will be willing to cast his light into the world and share with others the gift you have received.
The purpose of the Church is to introduce people to Christ and prepare those who know him to be his missionaries. Is that the purpose of this parish? Is that the mission that you have accepted?