The Responsorial (Psalm 50) paints a picture of happy life on earth. It urges us: “Offer to God a sacrifice of
praise.” But in the context of a community that recognizes God’s creation as “perfect in beauty,” his covenant as the way of truth and justice, and his fidelity to those who “call upon him in time of distress.”
Exodus 24: 3-8 is the account of the great moment when the Jews, as a whole People, formally entered into their covenant with God. First Moses built an altar of stones to symbolize the presence of God. He assembled the whole people around it. In front of each tribe he built a pillar of stones, twelve to represent the twelve tribes. He offered bulls in sacrifice, took half of the blood and dashed it against the altar, symbol of God. He took the book of the covenant, read it to the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will heed and do." Then Moses dashed the rest of the blood on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.”
Later Jesus would repeat this scene. At the Last Supper he gathered his twelve apostles, who represented the Church. There had to be twelve apostles to show that the Church was the continuation of the twelve tribes of Israel. “While they were eating, Jesus… took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant….’” He drank, pledging God. The Twelve drank, pledging the new People of God, the Church. The old Covenant was sealed in the blood of bulls; the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. Each time we drink the cup of his blood at Mass we “drink to the Covenant.” We renewing and ratify the Covenant between God and us.
The old Covenant was basically contractual: if the Jews would “be God’s people” by keeping hi s laws, then God would “be their God” by taking care of them. The New Covenant is a mystery of shared life: by drinking Christ’s blood we commit to live as Christ’s body animated by his Spirit. What weakened or violated the old Covenant was non-observance of the Law. But in Matthew 13: 24-30 Jesus describes the New Covenant as being attacked by the sowing of bad seed: a lesser life-form. Fidelity to the New Covenant is not measured just by external observance; it is a mystery of the heart, of deep interior life. We cannot identify “good seed” or “bad seed” by judgments based on behavior alone. Christ’s ministers must always be aware they are dealing with a mystery: God’s life in themselves expressed and communicated to others.
We offer ourselves to this ministry during the Eucharistic Prayer. The key moment comes when the host is lifted up with the words, “This is my Body, given for you.” At that moment everyone present should respond, “This is my body, given up for you” — for everyone on earth — to give healing and life by expressing the truth and love of God to everyone we deal with. This is our covenant as “priests in the Priest.”
Initiative: Be a priest. Look for signs of God’s life in others. Nourish it.