A New Sacrifice
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Whenever I am invited to bless a house or a car, I look for traces of blood. Many times, a blood sacrifice has been performed ahead of the blessing. This means a chicken or a pig has been butchered and its blood was used to make a sign on the posts of the house or the wheels of the car. The ritual has pre-Christian roots. It is supposed to ward off accidents because the spirits have been placated with the blood sacrifice. The spirits would not be seeking blood anymore. I often tease the parishioners about the practice, telling them that my blessing is superfluous. “Just to make sure,” they say. Those with some knowledge of scriptures rationalize that the practice has a basis in the scriptures as the first reading describes (Ex.24, 3-8).

The second reading tells us that Jesus’ blood-sacrifice was not like any other sacrifice. “He entered not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, and achieved eternal redemption (Heb. 9, 12).” The sacrifice of Jesus was unique because not only was he the Priest who offered the sacrifice, He made Himself the sacrificial Victim when He pronounced the words over the bread and wine, “This is my body…this is my blood.” The words of consecration at the Last Supper were sealed by the sacrificial act on the Cross.

Today as we celebrate the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are being reminded that the Holy Eucharist has a variety of rich meanings. Some would prefer to see the Eucharist as a meal of thanksgiving. It is a celebration of God’s good works in Jesus. It is a fiesta. Others would emphasize the Eucharistic celebration as a memorial. It is a way of remembering. Jesus Himself commanded it, “Do this in memory of me.” Unlike remembering people when we browse over a picture album, Jesus becomes really present again in His Word and in the form of bread and wine. Others would call the Eucharist as a new covenant, a dialogue between God and His people mediated by the priest. In the Eucharist we renew our pledge to be God’s people and He assures us of His abiding presence and protection.

I would however like to underline the sacrificial meaning of the Eucharist. I would like to recover its meaning as “holy sacrifice of the mass.” It is the holy sacrifice of the people gathered together. Those who offer the sacrifice with the priest also offer themselves as victims. This is what we mean by uniting ourselves with the sacrifice of Jesus. The lack of emphasis on the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist might be part of a whole culture to avoid the word “sacrifice”. It seems in an indulgent contemporary culture, we become allergic to making sacrifices. We seek our self-actualization or self-fulfillment. We are not really very keen about self-sacrifice. And so we avoid mentioning “the sacrifice of the mass.”

Even from the moment of the Last Supper, Jesus intended the Eucharist to be related to self-giving. He illustrated this with the washing of the feet of the apostles. St. Ignatius of Antioch, from the early years of Christianity, understood the Eucharist as bread that is broken in order to give life. He who partakes of the Eucharist is even willing to give up his life so that the Church may grow and others may live. Fittingly, the Eucharist was called the bread of martyrs. We cannot therefore separate the Eucharist from self-offering. There can be no Eucharist if there is no victim. There can be no Eucharist if there is no sacrifice.

Action starter: Whenever we say “Amen” to the words “Body of Christ,” are we preparing ourselves to sacrifice?