Saved by the Blood
User's Guide to Sunday, June 7
Sunday, June 7, is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Year B).
Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Look in a Baptist hymnal, and you will see beautiful songs about the blood of Christ, such as Saved by the Blood and There’s Power in the Blood.
Are You Washed in the Blood? asks: “Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side? Do you rest each moment in the Crucified? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
Nothing but the Blood asks: “What can wash away my sin?” and answers, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Christianity just doesn’t make sense without the blood of Christ — even a form of Christianity that rejected the Eucharist long ago.
Thus the liturgy presents us with our access to the blood of Christ again and again: at Holy Thursday, in the John 6 Gospel readings we will hear this summer and on the feast of Corpus Christi.
There are many ways to explain how and why the blood of Christ is so important. Some readings stress the Passover Lamb that was slain. Jesus Christ becomes our Passover; we are spared because we shared in the blood of his sacrifice. Today’s readings stress the priestly offerings of Moses — where the same blood of sacrifice was sprinkled on the altar, representing God, and the people, uniting them together into God’s chosen people.
In each case, the blood is needed to unite the people to the Lord. Without the blood, there is no covenant — no connecting pact — between the people and God.
And in each case, the blood is not just a poetic image. The Israelites do not chant evocative lyrics about blood: They put real blood on their doorposts. The priest does not unite the people to God with beautiful words: He sprinkles them with the actual blood of sacrifice.
The beauty of our Catholic faith is that we do the same. We don’t just speak about the blood of Christ: We consume it in the Eucharistic body and blood of Jesus.
Today’s feast celebrates this central fact of our faith. “The Mass is to us the crowning act of Christian worship,” said Venerable Fulton Sheen. “A temple without an altar of sacrifice is nonexistent among primitive peoples and is meaningless among Christians. And so in the Catholic Church, the altar, and not the pulpit or the choir or the organ, is the center of worship, for there is re-enacted the memorial of his passion. Its value does not depend on him who says it or on him who hears it; it depends on him who is the One High Priest and Victim, Jesus Christ our Lord. With him, we are united, in spite of our nothingness.”
Like the Hebrews at the Passover and at the altar of Moses, we are united to one another in Christ through the Eucharist.
There’s Power in the Blood — power to unite us all together in the body of Christ, the Church. Power is given to the Church to forgive sins.
Nothing but the Blood can wash away our sins, the real, living blood of the Eucharistic Jesus.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.