Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 400

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.”

Perhaps all aging people experience this: here is something I have been told so often that I believe it, but now I see it’s true!
I was told from early on that Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses, psalms and prophecies of the Old Testament:
He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44)

Recently, however, as I pray the psalms of our daily “Liturgy of the Hours,” I am again astonished at how they fit so perfectly into my Christian experience. I find it amazing that everything in the “Old Testament” makes sense in the light of the “New Testament.” I suppose many Jewish scholars will object to this claim. Their traditions diverged from the Christian path after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Even their reading of the texts developed differently. But it is impossible for the Christian to deny or ignore the roots of our faith in the “Hebrew Scriptures.”

We have been hearing stories from the Books of Genesis and Exodus over the past few weeks. Today’s reading brings us to the foot of Mount Sinai and the covenant which God established there with his people, our spiritual ancestors. The Catholic will recognize Moses’ ritual gestures: the readings and the sprinkling. Our Mass has the same two-step form; first we read from the scriptures, then we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus from the altar.

If Moses’ ceremony seems messier and perhaps less appealing to our fastidious tastes, it nonetheless adds drama to our less sanguine rite. Whereas they are bound to the altar and the God of the altar by the sprinkling of a heifer’s blood and eating of its flesh, we are united to Jesus by drinking his blood and eating his flesh. The calf was slain, butchered and roasted on a stone altar; Jesus was slain on the altar of the cross; and we come to eat and drink at the altar. Although the Jews have not performed this ritual since the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, we celebrate the Mass daily in churches throughout the world.

I find beauty here, and much consolation. True, the world is changing rapidly around me. Many of us suffer present shock, which is the present tense of future shock. The more I hear of what is happening the less I understand. But I am sure the Mass and the Sacraments, the tradition and the gospel, the Lord and his covenant will last forever.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.