WelCom June/July 2021
Gospel Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?’ 13 He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.
14 Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says, ‘Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” 15 Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.’
16 The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. 22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’
23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
26 Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Today’s gospel sees Jesus preparing for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a repetition of the Passover Meal celebrated before the deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt. (Ex 12:23). Mark recounts an amazing prediction, expressed in the form of a story demonstration in which Jesus shared with his disciples about where, what, when and how the preparation was to be arranged for the Passover Meal. The disciples went into the city and found everything as Jesus said it would be.
This dramatic preparation precedes Mark’s account for the first Eucharistic meal known as the Last Supper. This meal, our Eucharistic celebration at every Mass, becomes the New Passover. Jesus broke the Bread, blest it, gave thanks and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take it, this is my body.’ Then giving thanks, he blest the wine and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many.’ These actions reflect the Old Testament writings (see Exodus 24:8 and Isaiah 53:12).
The analogy and metaphors of ‘blood’ and ‘body’ feel a bit too violent for public mass. But they reflect the stress and tension that not only Christ was bearing at the time, but the whole of early Christendom. It is perhaps appropriate then, to reflect on where we are today as a Christian movement. In 2021, we Catholics continue to attend Mass and receive the Blessed Eucharist on Sundays. Although the population of Aotearoa New Zealand has doubled in my lifetime, the number of priests has dramatically reduced. Many priests are ‘past their use-by date’ but under duress, willingly continue to serve their people year after year.
With no resident bishop in our Palmerston North diocese, our church is in need of leadership. We have Liturgies of the Eucharist, where the laity may hold services and distribute previously consecrated Hosts to those attending. Liturgies, which of necessity, are so much part of Catholic worship, unfortunately lack the popularity of the Mass? The 2020 lockdown made many Catholics blasé about watching Sunday Mass televised. In ‘she’ll be right’ Kiwi fashion; many hoped this relaxing method of worship may become acceptable. We need a bishop in whom the Holy Spirit will put ‘Fire in the Belly’ and ‘Power in the Mind’. May we see Masses, demanding our attendance, where Christ’s Body and Blood is consecrated before us into spiritual food that sustains real life forever.
Tom Gibson, a retired dairy farmer, is a parishioner at Immaculate Conception, Stratford, Taranaki.