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Just a note about the transcript and the podcast. If you listen to the podcast and compare it to the transcript, you will notice it does not always match. It is sometimes the case, as it is today, that the podcast includes a few more clarifying sentences in places.

Also, the readings for this Sunday can be found by clicking here.

Who is Jesus Christ? Who do you say that he is? In this Meditation Monday, we are going to attempt to unpack the implications of the answers to this question.

When we think of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we may not fully appreciate just how significant this celebration. Because we have grown up with the notion that when we receive the Eucharist we receive Jesus, we might lose the significance of what is occurring. And so as we prepare for these readings next Sunday, it might be a good idea to ask ourselves a question for the week. What does the Eucharist mean to us? What place does the Eucharist have in your life? In what way does the reception of the Eucharist, or the adoration of the Eucharist change your life?

Who is Jesus? This is not a frivolous question, because the answer changes every aspect of our lives. In fact, both in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark we read about Jesus asking this very question. Just who do we profess Jesus to be? It seems that one explanation for why some people may have left the Church is that they did not really and fully understand what it is we believe about Jesus. Rather than entering into the mystery of Jesus as both human and divine, some saw only a human who did a lot of nice things, but was not really the Divine Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

This matters because when we go to Mass we are not simply just getting together to remember a nice guy. Rather, we are entering into the connection of heaven and earth, the Divine Son of God entering into our day-to-day life. It is also the fulfillment of the promise of God made after the sin of Adam. All of our salvation history, from the stories of the Old Testament until the appearance of  Jesus in human form was guided to fulfill the promise of God.

And so what is the fulfillment that we see in the Mass? So much of what we read in the Old Testament is about moving or leading us to fulfillment. This is not in the sense of magical predictions of the future, but rather the increase over time of our understanding of the role and action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So much of what God does in our world is about readiness. When is humanity ready to receive and understand what it is God wants to do for us? This is what we are called to think about and pray about over the course of this week.

How does this play out for us? What is it we need to understand in the Old Testament? Perhaps a good place for us to begin is with the idea of sacrifice/offering in the life of worship. In the Old Testament, we hear of a number of different offerings, each of which had a different purpose.

The first is the burnt offering, the instructions for which are listed in the Book of Leviticus. The footnote in the New American Bible says this: “[1:3] The burnt offering is used for regular daily (6:1–6) offerings, public festivals (Nm 28–29), purification rituals (Lv 12:6–8; 14:19–20; 15:15, 30), and individuals’ vows and voluntary offerings (22:18–20). This offering was the common daily offering and often was an offering of atonement for sin.

The grain offering (sometimes called cereal offering) was a more common way of offering, which could have been offered alongside a burnt offering, though it usually did not have the same connotations for sin. The grain offering could also take the place of a burnt offering for those who were poor.

There were also peace offerings, which could be to offer thanksgiving, or free will offerings, to fulfill a vow (votive offering) or a spontaneous act of worship, and elevated offerings which were raised to signify more direct and generous offering to God. They were, as the name implies, an offering for communion or reconciliation between two parties.

In terms of sin and guilt, these two provided ways of worship to atone for specific sins, either because our intention was not pure or we deliberately offended God. These two offerings were meant to bring one back and to make things right with God by opening the heart of the one who offers back to God.

The point of all of these offerings was to emphasize the importance of worshiping God in the many situations in life, indeed in every situation of life. Whether the events of our life are of little importance or tremendous importance, what they are all about is to recognize that every aspect of our lives, good and bad, holy and evil, are meant to be seen in the light of God’s grace.

But in the end, these offerings and sacrifices were not sufficient. Perhaps the biggest reason for their insufficiency was that they could be seen as magic offerings, not offerings of faith, where the doing of the sacrifice took the place of the fidelity to the commandments of God. Empty worship, without the resolve and the actions to follow God fully are not acceptable. These same themes are taken up by the prophet Hosea, in Psalm 40 and elsewhere.

Ultimately the individual sacrifices offered anywhere became the sacrifices offered by the priests in the Temple built by King Solomon. But even these proved insufficient. This is why the Lord Jesus came to us. Rather than our empty actions of worship, since it did not take away sin, Jesus himself became the priest who offered the sacrifice, and the acceptable sacrifice offered to God.

And so unlike the many, ineffective sacrifices offered in ancient days, we participate in the only sacrifice that could take away sins, for the Lord Jesus in offering himself takes away our sins. So when we consider all that Jesus has done, think of this. There were covenants offered in the Old Testament, but Jesus both offers a New Covenant and is the Covenant being offered. There were sacrifices offered over and over again, but now Jesus is the true sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world once for all. In the book of Deuteronomy there is the invitation to choose life by following God’s way, but in the New Covenant of Jesus he offers his life for our sins so that we can live in eternal life.

And so it is not the case that Jesus was simply a good man worthy to be emulated. Jesus was the fully human person, who was also fully divine. It is Jesus who is the once-for-all sacrifice that is truly effective in the remission of sins. This is especially clear in the Gospel of John. John places the crucifixion on preparation day, the day the lambs were slaughtered for the Passover. Blood and water flow out from the side of Jesus, just as blood and water flowed out the sides of the Temple when it was clean after the slaughtering of the lambs. It is John the Baptist who recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God, the one who will be slaughtered, yes, but a slaughter of one completely innocent and free from all sin.

And so the offering of Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, because the sacrifice of Jesus is not empty, or for show, but is made freely by the one who himself makes the sacrifice holy. Jesus offers his life so that we can be saved. Jesus gathers us, broken grains scattered because of sin, and invites us to become one body, his body. Just as scattered grains become one loaf, and scattered grapes become one wine, Jesus takes us, the scattered and broken and sinful followers of his and makes us one too. The power of the sacrifice of Jesus is that we both receive his body, and we become his body.

It is for this reason we can call the liturgy, the Mass, the touching of heaven and earth, because the priest, acting not in himself in the person of Christ, can give us the bread from heaven, the Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus himself, body and blood, soul and divinity. We touch heaven from here on earth, because when we receive the body and blood of Jesus, we touch the divine Son of God himself, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

Just a note about the transcript and the podcast. If you listen to the podcast and compare it to the transcript, you will notice it does not always match. It is sometimes the case, as it is today, that the podcast includes a few more clarifying sentences in places.

Also, the readings for this Sunday can be found by clicking here.

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