When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the Lord, they all answered with one voice, "We will do everything that the Lord has told us." Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then having sent certain young men of the Israelites to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord, Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of His."(P) The word of the Lord.
How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (R)
Previous in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds. (R)
To you will I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people. (R)
Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a young cow's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.(P) The word of the Lord.
On the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the Master of the house", the Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. "Make the preparations for us there."
The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Here is an interesting story. A foreign tourist was traveling around China with the help of a guide. One day they happened to pass by a cemetery where a burial was taking place. The traveler wanted to look at the local custom. So he bought some flowers to show his respect for the dead and they both went to the burial place. After the burial the tourist noticed the Chinese were leaving some food items for the dead. He said to his guide, "Is it not ridiculous to leave food at the grave of the dead? Is it not a waste of food? When do you think the dead will get up and eat it?" The Chinese man smiled and replied, "I guess he will eat it when he gets up to smell the flowers you brought".
There are many things in life that remain a mystery including traditions and faith practices. One of the main theological issues that has divided Christianity is the belief by some Christians that the Holy Eucharist is in essence the body and blood of Christ. There are three communion traditions of the faith.
The Orthodox churches including the Roman Catholic Church believe the bread and wine offered at the altar become the body and blood of Christ through "transubstantiation". These churches believe that when a priest extends his hands over the gifts of bread and wine, and calls down the Holy Spirit, they mysteriously change into the actual Body and Blood of Christ.
The Lutheran Christians believe in "consubstantiation". This belief arose out of the Protestant Reformation initiated by theologians, churchmen, and statesmen in the 16th century. They believe that Jesus is "with, in, and under" the bread and wine but they do not literally change into the body and blood of Christ.
The Reformed Churches, such as the Presbyterian, the Baptist and others perform the communion service as a "memorial", based on the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, "Do this in memory of me". They believe that they are called upon to remember only what God has done at the last supper. They do not believe that the bread and wine used at the service actually change into the body and blood of Christ.
The Anglican Churches comprising the Church of England and the Episcopal Churches hold either views. Some believe in "transubstantiation" and some believe that it is just a symbol or memorial.
Different interpretations of the scriptures by different people have led to different understanding and practice of "communion". According to the Catholic faith, we believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine based on Christ's teaching in the scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church. We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night before he suffered on the cross, shared one last meal with his disciples.
During the meal he instituted the Holy Eucharist and changed the bread and wine into His Body and Blood when he took some bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, "Take and eat. This is my body." In the same way he gave the wine to his disciples and said, "Drink it, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins", Matthew (26:27-28), Mark (14:22-23). Jesus has also said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man you will not have life in you", John (6:51-53).
Today's second reading from the letter to the Hebrews also provides an explanation for our belief. Writing to the Jews converted to the Christian faith in the early community the writer took them back to the Old Testament sacrificial rite which foreshadowed Jesus' sacrifice and, then showed them how Jesus fulfilled the rite.
The ancient Israelites believed that the blood of sacrificial animals and birds offered by the priests on behalf of the people made them clean or holy before God. All the people offered these ritual sacrifices for the expiation of sins - in accord with the Law which God handed down through Moses. However, such sacrifices just stayed as rituals and never brought any spiritual satisfaction or any change in a person's life. But the writer said that they expected greater things from the coming of the Messiah. Yes. Christ, the Messiah came as the High Priest, and he sacrificed neither animals nor birds, as the priests of the Old Testament did, but rather he offered his own body and blood and, the manner of the sacrifice was spiritual too; for it took place through the Holy Spirit.
It is believed that even though the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine are visible like any other material offerings at the hands of the priests, Jesus' offering of himself in mind and heart to God was imperceptible and inconspicuous, and was invisible to human beings. So the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine will stay a mystery. Nevertheless, all the saints have also affirmed Christ's presence in the Eucharist, and found nourishment in it on their journey towards perfection.
Despite all the explanation and our faith, all of us may still struggle to understand, and explain to others, how the changes take place - how the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ - and how his sacrifice could bring us forgiveness for our sins. Hence, we do not have to debate and argue with non-Christians, non-Catholics and unbelievers regarding our faith in this mystery. Let us respect those who honestly tell us what they can believe and what they cannot and why. However, there are certain things that we Catholic believers have to do so as to receive all the spiritual blessings and benefits that flow from His sacrifice.
Let us always gather in remembrance of Jesus who gave his life for our salvation and commanded us to celebrate this gift in his memory for he has given his life not just for the sins of the people of his time but for the sins of all mankind.
Let us truly acknowledge and believe that the bread and wine are Christ's true body and blood.
Let us always come forward to receive the body and blood of Christ with reverence, penitent hearts and gratitude for the magnificent gift.
Let us pray that the body and blood that we consume may purify our mind from sinful deeds and, make us all holy and give us the strength to be faithful to the covenant we make with God, and hold fast to everything that Jesus has said and done for us.
God Bless You!