The Power of The Holy Eucharist
St Charles Lwanga and Martyrs of Uganda

The Power of The Holy Eucharist

It is patently clear that the word “blood” is the most revealing word in all three readings of this liturgy. We immediately associate blood with life; while we recoil from the sight of spilled blood as, right away, it conjures up the specter of a violent death. The significance and the message conveyed by blood are evident in the sealing of the covenant between the community (the twelve tribes of Israel represented by the twelve pillars) and Yahweh God (Exodus 224:3-8).

The sprinkling with blood indicates that, through a covenant, the community commits itself to drawing life from God by remaining faithful to him and by obeying his Word. However, the covenant was broken repeatedly by Israel of old because the personal cost to the individuals and to the community was minimal, just the cost of the sacrificed animals.

There was a need for a lasting, eternal covenant. And, inevitably, this necessitated God’s ultimate sacrifice of himself to convince humankind of the extent of his love and to elicit from individuals and from the community a personal sacrifice that would assure that a new covenant could withstand the passing of time and would touch people’s hearts. This is the idea expressed in the letter to the Hebrews (9:11-15) and addressed to those who were the recipients of the first covenant and to all future generations of disciples.

On the part of God, this covenant is truly new and eternal because the blood of sacrificed animals is replaced by the most precious Blood of God himself in the Son, Christ Jesus on the cross.

As far as we are concerned, the covenant is new, and it is as lasting as the degree of personal sacrifice which Jesus’ most precious Blood can elicit in our hearts. In the old covenant, the bond between God and his people was sealed with the sprinkling of the blood of sacrificed animals; now it is sealed in the Blood of Christ that we receive during the Sacrifice of the Mass. Through the consumption of the Body and Blood of Christ we enter into a Holy Communion which will never be broken by God, but which can be broken by us in our human frailty.

However, although we are left free to respond to God’s love in three ways: 1) with the offering of our whole self; 2) by holding back; or, 3) even, by turning away from him, his investment in the new covenant is such that we must live with the certainty that he will always find a way to offer us reconciliation with himself and with the Community (Church) that is wounded by our individual refusals, indifference and disengagement.

I think that this thought is extremely important for us to keep in mind. After the sacrifice of his only Son and the shedding of his Blood, for God there is no turning back and there is no desisting from seeking us out with tenderness and infinite compassion anytime we walk away from him. Jesus’ shed Blood cannot be put back into his veins.

We are and will always be, too precious for the Father to let go of us!

But there is another reason why I remind myself and all of you about the significance of having been sealed in the Blood of Christ and of sharing in his “divine DNA,” so to speak. It is because of the inevitability and the continuity of situations in which those comprising the new twelve tribes of Israel, the disciples of Christ, are and will be asked to shed their blood figuratively, symbolically or, in increasing number of cases, even literally for him.

In fairness, I need to preface my next point by acknowledging that many other Christian denominations have their share of martyrs, the latest one is the young missionary couple of Davy and Natalie Lloyd gunned down, recently, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Let me remind you that, throughout her history, the Catholic Church has been targeted for destruction by the forces of evil which employ many means and many venues to their sinister end.

We cannot forget that, presently, Catholics are imprisoned, their property confiscated, their homes and churches burned to the ground in parts of Africa and Asia. Persecution in its vicious intensity is endured by Christians in North Korea and China and many other nations where Islamist or Hindu fundamentalists are free to attack them with impunity. In Europe, persecution takes the form of ridicule, severe restrictions and the prospect of fines and imprisonment for preaching the message of the Holy Scriptures if such message is deemed “hate speech.” Currently, in this country, the persecution is still mostly subtle and felt as infringement on their constitutional rights by those who dare to live by the principles of the Gospel and by those who resist the godless ideologies forced by wokeness upon people of common sense who adhere to reality, nature, and truth. The prevalent forms of persecution are intimidation, shaming, “cancellation” and loss of livelihood for bold believers and their families. 

Today, if we grasp more deeply the significance of our Holy Communion sealed in the Blood of Christ and which unites us also with those who are persecuted elsewhere across the globe, we must ask ourselves about the extent to which we are willing to go in our loyalty to Christ and to the Gospel. Despite our apprehension, may we all do the same and rely on the love and power found in the Eucharist to help us when it will be our turn to bear witness to Christ anyhow and, thus, to seal the new covenant even, perhaps, with the shedding of our blood. We firmly believe that the Lord will supply our weakness with his boundless power and comfort us with his infinite love.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin