A reading from the book of Exodus
“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.”
Animal sacrifice was common among ancient religions, including Judaism. As strange as it seems to us, it was a major step away from human sacrifice which some of Israel’s neighbors practiced. The sprinkling of the blood of animals was a sign of Israel’s fidelity to the Covenant and so was called the “blood of the covenant.” It was also seen as a cleansing and an act of forgiveness from God to his people.
“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” We certainly call upon the name of the Lord, usually in time of need, but how about in thanksgiving for all God gives us?
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
The author makes the point to his Hebrew Christian readers that the blood of Jesus, shed in his crucifixion, is so much more powerful and meaningful than the blood of animals. Jesus is “mediator of a new covenant” that brings with it “the promised eternal inheritance.” It was a difficult challenge for Jews who had lived their whole lives under the Sinai Covenant to believe that there was something new and deeper to be gained through the sacrifice of Jesus. Many could not believe, but some did. They were courageous, facing the wrath of the Romans and exclusion from their synagogues. This whole letter was written to explain the new covenant to them and to give them hope in the midst of their conversion from a lifelong religious practice to something new.
Sometimes, we hesitate to hear something new and challenging. Being careful can be appropriate; yet we need always to be open to the Spirit that lives within us. When faced with a difficult choice we need to call upon our life partner, the Holy Spirit of God.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 14:12-16, 22-26)
This is not just any Passover meal. Jesus sees it as the beginning of the new covenant, a powerful healing and promise of new life. The Eucharist that we celebrate together is not a reward for being part of the community or for doing the right thing. It is a healing, forgiving, peace-giving sacrament meant to nourish us, to give us strength on our daily journey. Pope Francis welcomes people to this nourishing meal even if they have thought themselves to be excluded. If you know someone who has stopped coming to the Eucharist, please encourage that person to try again. As the signs say leading to my parish and to many parishes, “All are welcome.” This could be an important part of your ministry—helping people you know and love to come back to the banquet of unconditional love.
Photo by Josh Applegate on Upsplash.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.