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Corpus Christi (B)
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Readings for Corpus Christi Sunday, Cycle B

 

1. Exodus 24, 3-8

  • I hear a story full of symbolic action, and images such as mountain, an altar, twelve pillars, holocausts, book of the covenant.  It leads up to the final moment in which Moses explains its meaning.
  • God gives the words and ordinances to Israel in the desert, and the people all answered with one voice.  I note that Moses spoke the words before he wrote them down.  And after he wrote them down, he read the book aloud to the people.  I hear something of a foundation event in this, and I am reminded a little of the birth of a modern nation that is also founded, like ours is, on a constitution.  Yes, enthusiasm is always present when something new is created, but Israel is God’s creation alone.
  • Moses is reading something like what we hear in Exodus in general, and what we heard last week: God’s account of the deliverance of the people, and the commandments that follow from it. 
  • I cannot forget the context: the covenant which the Lord has made with you.  God has acted with tender mercy toward us, as all the words of scripture show.  Again, faith has no place here.  The blood of the covenant came from animals given over to God, so the people have come under God’s care.
  • Twice I hear the people saying with one voice: We will do it.  I will use a decisive tone of voice when I repeat the words, and search for the emotions that build in a gathering that has risen as one to give the speaker a standing ovation.
  • Climax: The sprinkling of the people with the blood, and the signifying words: This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.
  • Message for our assembly: There is a meaning behind everything that happens to us.  The human observer sees random events, while the faithful people embrace their family. 
  • I will challenge myself: To evoke the same spirit of anticipation and gratitude that the people felt.

 

2. Hebrews 9, 11-15

  • This is the second reading in a row in which we hear of countless animal sacrifices.  I consider this barbaric, and so does most of the congregation.  How will I speak a word to them that is so offensive to their sensitivities?
  • I remember that the author of Hebrews speaks of the lifelong offering of Christ, which is our defining moment as a church gathered around him.  I will make those references to Christ the focal point of my reading: Christ came as high priest; He entered into the sanctuary with his own blood; He offered himself unblemished to God.
  • Then come four very decisive words: thus obtaining eternal redemption.  They either flow automatically from our lips insofar as we memorize our catechism answers, or they embody the center of our lives.  The way I declare them today will tell the church assembled here how they are to take them.
  • The author goes on to prove his point.  We don’t sacrifice animals any more (what is worse, we keep them all for ourselves!), but we continue to stray from obedience to God, from the way of God’s holiness.  The words cleanse our consciences from dead works are very relevant, and I need to say them that way.
  • Grammatically speaking, we have only three sentences.  If I read three sentences, I’m going to lose even my most faithful Bible readers.  I need to break the passage down into its ten components and rehearse the components until I have integrated them around Christ.
  • Central point: Christ is mediator of a new covenant. 
  • The message for our assembly: Our devotion to the consecrated host, which is the origin of Corpus Christi, is based on what Jesus has done for us.  Those who are called refers to this assembly today.  Let us be thankful and sing our Alleluias heartily.
  • I will challenge myself: To build my delivery with each phrase, until I close with the three triumphant words: promised eternal inheritance.

 

Gospel. Mark 14, 12-16 and 22-26

  • I heard these words of the Eucharist institution at the mass of Passion Sunday.  This time they do not form an introduction to the Passion and Death but become the heart of the message themselves.  I can take my time.
  • The first part deals with the preparations to eat the Passover.  Mark mentions the word Passover four times.  His other details are unique and more descriptive of the circumstances than we find in the other evangelists: a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  The master of the house will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. 
  • Then comes the moment of institution.  Jesus defines the meal as he defined the other meals they ate together with commonfolk and “sinners.”  He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them.  Will someone listening to me notice that Jesus ate the bread (and drank from the cup) after the disciples shared, if in fact he consumed them at all?
  • The final saying of Jesus – I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine – has puzzled many, but it is partly a promise to the church of a great meal to come in the kingdom of God.  The final verse of today’s Sequentia echoes the invitation to join the Lord at his table as companions and co-heirs.  I will keep this hope strong in my consciousness as I read.
  • Climax: My blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.  Seldom do I hear the words of fulfillment repeated nearly exactly in both the Hebrew and Greek testaments.
  • Message for our assembly: Of course they are aware that our weekly (daily) gatherings are repetitions, remembrances, living bonds with the living Christ.  This reading makes it all the more evident.
  • I will challenge myself: To deliver the words in such a way that my listeners hear at least one thing for the first time.

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