Now – to me, this shows that she had actually given this some thought – and had come to the conclusion that this didn’t make sense. To her credit, her claim is not un-founded. We read in scripture that Jesus died once for all – which means no further sacrifices are needed! That’s why we don’t have the temple anymore…we don’t NEED to continually kill lambs and goats and turtledoves on our altar. Jesus’ sacrifice was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. So – where do we get off offering the ‘sacrifice of the Mass’ all over the world every day?
Well – today’s readings, I think, make this point about as clear as can be. We’re gonna have to do a little scripture study this morning to help everyone understand this – so grab your missallette and turn to page 176:
Look at that first reading: about half way through – Moses sent some men to offer some sacrifices – then look what he did with the blood:
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.” Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.”
“this is the blood of the covenant”…wow…that should sound pretty familiar to us. Remember that, we’ll come right back to it. Look specifically at what was going on…. Moses read the book of the covenant to the people… remind you of anything? Isn’t that what we just did 3 minutes ago?! Next he took the blood of the sacrifice and did what: splashed half on the altar – and sprinkled the rest ON THE PEOPLE! Think about that – imagine you’re in the congregation that day and they come around throwing blood all over the place. If you’ve ever been near the end of the aisle when Fr. Eugene comes around with the holy water… just imagine if that was BLOOD he was sprinkling. Seems really weird and maybe even gross to us now… but this was the BLOOD OF THE COVENANT – and the fact that you had the PHYSICAL BLOOD STAINS on your clothing was an outward sign to the world that YOU were in on the covenant – you and God were reconciled.
Next – check out the second reading – even more deep imagery here: He’s describing what the High Priest would do on the day of Atonement…. You ever heard of Yom Kippur? That is the highest feast of the year for Jews – it was the only day of the year that the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies – that’s the inner chamber of the Temple where it was believed that God dwelt. This was HIS home on earth. [Other than that day – nobody could enter the Holy of Holies – in fact, they would tie a rope to the high priest just in case he would faint or something so they could pull him out – because NOBODY else was allowed in there.] On the day of Atonement, the High Priest went in and offered a sacrifice for the whole nation. Listen to this… he would kill the lamb… splash half the blood on the altar … and the other half he would – what? Sprinkle on the people! Sound familiar? Every year, the High Priest would re-enact the sacrifice that Moses made way back at Mt. Sinai! This was how they constantly re-atoned for the sins of the nation. This is how they renewed the covenant with God. Which covenant was that? The same covenant that God made way back in Moses’ time.
Now –knowing that background, perhaps the rest of that reading makes a bit more sense. I’d love to re-read it all – but just check out that one long sentence:
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
Notice – the blood of the first sacrifice, he says, cleansed our flesh… but the blood of the new covenant cleanses our consciences. That’s a big difference. Like I said, that old covenant seemed to focus mainly on what the people DID – the external observances of what God told them to do. The new covenant is more of an INTERNAL change. And for that reason, we come forward at communion – not to have the blood sprinkled on our OUTSIDE – but to DRINK the blood – to take it into our own body so that we can be cleansed from the INSIDE OUT!
This sacrifice of Jesus was the ultimate Day of Atonement. He didn’t just go into the Holy of Holies in the Temple – he entered the ultimate Holy of Holies – HEAVEN – where God dwells. And what did he do there? Don’t miss this… He entered the holy of holies with the PERFECT sacrifice. Not the blood of lambs or bulls… but with his OWN BLOOD. He achieved perfect atonement for us because HE HAS ENTERED HEAVEN AS THE PERFECT SACRIFICE AND REMAINS THERE – He is both Human and Divine – so for the first time, Humanity and Divinity are united in heaven.
When Jesus said in the Gospel – “this is the blood of the covenant” in the Gospel – surely that means so much more to all of us now. This is the sacrifice of atonement. Offered once for all – so the young lady was right – we DON’T have to continually sacrifice anymore. What we do is RE-PRESENT the same sacrifice to God through our Mass. Jesus does not die every time we come to the altar. He becomes present in the Eucharist – body, blood, soul, and divinity – let me try to explain this: Jesus is in heaven, right? Well at the moment of consecration we believe that somehow we are united to heaven…and Jesus, who is standing forever before God the Father as the perfect lamb, slain as atonement for the sins of the world is also present to us here on our altar…and we offer this body and blood back to God as our weekly or daily atonement. Bends our brains doesn’t it?? We don’t have to understand it – just participate in communion in order to renew OUR side of the covenant. The sign of that covenant is the Body and Blood that we take into ourselves. We are changed – inside out.