Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Sacrifice, Covenant, Banquet

Robert Barron - Sacrifice, Covenant, Banquet

Robert Barron - Sacrifice, Covenant, Banquet
TOPICS: Sacrifices, Covenant

Peace be with you. Friends, we come this weekend to the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and the Blood of Christ. I always love the opportunity to preach on the Eucharist because, as Vatican II famously said, it's the source and summit of the Christian life, that from which Christian life comes, that toward which it tends. It's the alpha and the omega of our Christianity. So there's always something to say about the Eucharist. It's always important for us to spend time seeking to understand it more fully. And we have these three marvelous readings today. And I'm going to say just a word about each one, because each brings forth a key aspect of the Eucharist.

The first reading is from the book of Genesis. It's the first reference in the Bible to a mysterious figure, not mentioned often, but he's mentioned in very important context, and that's the priest-king Melchizedek. Now in Hebrew "melech" is king, "tzedek" means justice or righteousness, so his name means he's the king of righteousness. He's described as the king of Salem, "shalom," peace, comes from that, it was related to it. And "Jeru-salem," right, Jerusalem, he's associated with the holy city. So he's this figure that's filled with kind of symbolic resonance and overtones. He comes out to meet Abraham, who's just won a military victory, and Abraham is going to give him a tenth of his wealth.

So that's the source of the idea of tithing by the way. But for our purposes, the fact that Melchizedek, this king of righteousness, is also a priest who brings out bread and wine in order to sacrifice to God on behalf of Abraham. Sacrifice, how basic to the Israelite religious consciousness; how often alien to ours, but basic to theirs. The logic of which is really quite simple. We take some aspect of God's good creation, God doesn't need it, God's given all of it in the first place, but we need it because we return this symbolically to God as a sign of our gratitude. So part of the sacrificial mentality is simply to express our gratitude to God. But also, let's be honest, in our fallen sinful world, we also offer sacrifices of reparation, sacrifices of atonement.

It's a gesture by which we say to God, I'm sorry for my sins. They say the psychology when someone brought an animal to the Jerusalem temple is what's happening to this animal by right should be happening to me. In the suffering and the blood of the animal you were expressing your own contrition and sorrow before God. So Melchizedek here, who's a king but also a priest offering sacrifice, is a great evocation of the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. Now, when I was coming of age, so people my age you remember this, we almost totally muted the sacrificial side. The Mass was a meal. It was a time for festivity and celebration. Negative dimensions were kind of eliminated. And we didn't like talking about altars and sacrifices.

Oh, but that does great damage to us psychologically everybody, because we don't live in some la la land where there's no sin, there's no failure, there's no stupidity. No, no. We live in this real world. I'll get to the banquet part of it. That's true, that's real. But in our fallen sinful world, we need psychologically and spiritually ways to express our contrition, our sorrow. The fact that we have altars in our churches, that priests come out in the vestment of temple priests and they perform a sacrifice on that altar, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, that's exceptionally important, because as people join their lives to that great sacrifice, something of great psychological and spiritual significance is happening. They're expressing to God their sorrow by joining their lives to the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

And now listen everybody. That sacrifice is what is re-presented at every Mass. The Eucharist is a meal, and I'll get there. It is. But it's also an act of sacrifice. It represents in this sacramental way the dying of Christ on the cross. When Jesus willingly took upon himself our sins and on our behalf offered to the Father this sacrifice of reparation. You bracket that to our detriment. You stop talking about that, and we don't have a way now to express the sorrow that we feel at our sin. How beautiful at every Mass that we're able to join our sinful souls to the great sacrifice of Christ. So on this feast of Corpus Christi, let's not forget the sacrificial dimension of the Mass.

Okay. Reading two now from St. Paul. What I love about this, it's one of the very earliest evocations of the Eucharist that we have. And mind you, Paul writing probably in the fifties of the first century, is relying on older traditions. So this goes way back to the very beginnings of the Church. Paul reports the words of Jesus: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood". And don't we repeat those words, everybody, at every Mass? "The chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant". Covenant, that pivotal key word in the Old Testament. God makes covenants with his people, not just contracts. They're mutual pledges of life if you want. I will be your God, you will be my people.

Think of the covenant with Noah. Think of the covenant with Abraham. Think of the covenant with Moses. Think of the covenant with David. Each time, the God of Israel says "I will be your God" and the people respond "and we will be your people". And listen to me, everybody. Every one of these covenants is in blood. They're consecrated in blood. Remember that marvelous scene, it's in Exodus, where Moses takes blood in the bowls and he sprinkles some on the altar and then he sprinkles the rest on the people. That was a gesture of mutual selfgift. The God of Israel saying "my lifeblood belongs to you" and the people saying "our lifeblood belongs back to you, O Lord". That's the blood covenant at the heart of Israelite religion.

Now, what's the terrible truth, and anyone that reads the Old Testament knows this right away, is that though God remains faithful, Israel does not. Though they pledge their lifeblood in these covenants, they don't live up to their covenant. And so what? The great sages and prophets of Israel begin to long for what? A new and eternal covenant. "The days are coming, says the Lord," listen now to the prophet Jeremiah, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. I will not write the law on stone, but I will write the law on their hearts". That's Jeremiah anticipating the day when this covenant in blood between God and his people would be ratified, would be fulfilled, would be absolute.

What's Paul referring to here again in his earliest account of the Eucharist? "This cup," he quotes Jesus, "is the new covenant in my blood". How powerful this is everybody. Why? Why? Because Jesus is not just one more prophet. Oh yeah, great figure like Abraham, and like Jacob, and like Moses and David and Solomon. No, no, no. Jesus is fully human, yes indeed, and fully divine. Human yes indeed, but also God from God, light from light, true God from true God. Therefore, his blood is not just God's life, not just our human life, but listen, the coming together of the two; this new covenant in my blood is the meeting finally of the faithful God and faithful Israel.

Whenever we drink of this cup, now that happens at every Eucharist, when we drink in the blood of Christ, what are we drinking in everybody? This new and everlasting covenant. We are becoming thereby conformed unto Christ, who is in his very person the reconciliation of divinity and humanity. A sacrifice, yes indeed, on behalf of us for our sins. But it's also this moment of the realization of our communion with God. How wonderful we use that word, don't we, in connection with the Eucharist: communion. That's the covenant language. Okay. Now the third reading, which is Luke's marvelous account of the feeding of the five thousand. What did God want from the beginning? He wanted to share his life with his people. He wanted to host, as it were, a great banquet by which his people are fed with the divine life.

Go right back to the beginning of the Bible. We put a lot of stress on the original sin. Okay. But I always say the original permission is more interesting in a way. Where God says, "eat from the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one," and that's very important, and we've talked a lot about that, and we could put a stress on it, but I want to stress for the moment, the great permission is God wants to share his fullness of life with his people. That's why it's not accidental that in the course of the history of salvation, God's intimacy with his people is expressed through the imagery of eating. Think of the great Passover meal by which Israel kind of understands itself and expresses its identity as a people.

Think of the prophet Isaiah, who envisions this great mountain upon which God has spread out a feast for his people of juicy meat and pure choice wine. A banquet, a meal; the hills will run with wine. He anticipates that day. And then how marvelous everybody, that at the very heart of Jesus' public ministry, time and again, is what the scholars call open table fellowship. The Lord sits down to eat and drink. One thing, by the way, I love about the show "The Chosen," and the way Jesus is portrayed there is he's very much a person you can see. People would want to eat and drink with him. And to that table, he invites saints and sinners, right, insiders and outsiders, the righteous and the unrighteous.

Well, that's the anticipation of the eschatological banquet that God wants to hold for all of his creatures. What's the Eucharist, and then finally this story for today of the feeding of the five thousand? Why is that more than just a fascinating miracle? It's an expression symbolically of this idea that God wants to feed us in this extravagant, sumptuous way. Okay. What's the Mass? Look at us at Mass. Saints come. Yeah, I've known some saints that have come to Mass regularly. Sinners like me come. Everything in between: the educated, the uneducated, those who have it all together, those that are just barely trying to keep themselves in one piece.

All strata of society, we all come, we all come. Why? Because Christ wants to feed us with his life. That's the Eucharist. It's the feeding of the five thousand. I always think it's beautiful that at the offertory we bring forth a little tiny bit, think of the people that bring up the hosts and the little bit of wine and water. I'm able to barely feed the physical hunger of a handful of people. But yet from that little bit, Christ transubstantiates these elements into his own Body and Blood, and now the whole place can be fed spiritually. Beautiful. But these three dimensions on this feast of Corpus Christi, let's keep them all together.

The Eucharist is sacrifice. In a world gone wrong, there is no communion without sacrifice. Don't take that away from people. They need it psychologically and spiritually. Secondly, it's an expression of the covenant in blood. Christ's blood is God's blood and our blood now brought together. It's the realization of the covenant. And then finally, it's the feeding of the people, the feeding of the five thousand. Now think of over the centuries, the millions upon millions upon millions who've been fed by Christ's Body and Blood. With these three images in mind, everybody, let's make our way prayerfully through the feast of Corpus Christi. And God bless you.
Are you Human?:*