God will never give us a gift which will render God obsolete or as only a Spectator.
“Nature abhors a vacuum.” We are by nature oriented to the good as known and any experience of the good asks for more. The giver of a gift is saying something about the giver and about the receiver as well. The one receiving the entire gift must receive also what is being said.
We long for the full as well as the good and we can come close, especially in loving relationships. We can perceive God as a bit perverse by not giving us our completion here on earth, but only glimpses of totality. In a small way, we are perverse in that we are inclined to fill up our vacuumness by asking of a gift to be the giver of fullness. Even paradise did not complete Adam and Eve. As with us, they wanted more of the good and God holds completion as God’s final gift. Until then we live in peaceful reception of what God is saying about us, that is, as humans on earth we will find everything as a gift and everyone is a gift, but not given to complete us, but keep us reaching with hands wide open.
As I sit down to write this reflection, I am celebrating the smells from the two loaves of bread I have prepared with tender care and the guidance of my blood-brother, Mike’s recipe. I live in hope and so is the community as they too are surrounded by bread-breath.
Moses has been preparing his community for their entering their new homeland by instructing them about just how they should act as the holy and chosen people of God’s new revelation in a Covenant. There are many laws, instructions and liturgical observances proclaimed.
What we hear at the beginning of our First Reading for this great feast, is a great “Amen!” and communal agreement by the people to all they have heard from God through Moses. These “words” from God will be a protection from their wandering into other, (foreign) cultural ways. They will be also a reminder of who they are as God’s Holy People.
Then we hear of a liturgical experience which Moses performs to ratify that God had spoken and that the people heard and agreed to it all. Young bulls are sacrificed and Moses takes some of the blood and pours it on the altar he had constructed. The altar represents the holiness of the God Who has spoken. Moses then sprinkles some of the blood on the people representing their acceptance of their having heard and agreed to it all. He did this sprinkling after the people had heard and they received the blood as a sign of their new life as God’s chosen people.
So the liturgy of the Word took longer than even our longest readings and the sacrifice took even longer. The living out of this liturgy would be at the center of God’s relationship with Israel and the people’s response to being whom God had said they were. Blood was the “life source” and the closest thing to God as the “Life-Source” there was. Blood offered to God and shared with the people meant that they were bonded, united to God and with each other. Much of the Book of Leviticus is spent around this symbol of Holy and unholy blood and the constant need for human purification.
Our Gospel for this feast is as well, set around a celebrational liturgy. It begins with a picture of preparing for the Passover which recalls the blood of the Passover lamb being sprinkled on the door posts of the Israelites to keep them safe from the final plague in Egypt. It seems that Jesus has made reservations for a certain “upper room” and the disciples are shown the place and begins the setting for something new coming through the old.
We hear Mark’s account of the “institution Narrative”. Jesus and His disciples are recalling the great and wonderful events of the Exodus or coming out of slavery as well as the destruction of Pharaohs’s pursuing troops. The story is related with many symbols and in various forms and within the celebrating of their national past, there is a meal with unleavened bread and raising of cups of wine, all recalling who they are and Who God is for them. It is a celebration of life.
In our Roman Catholic tradition we celebrate the New Passover with great reverence for the former from which we all share. The very person of Jesus is a most wonderful gift to and for our humanity. He was really present physically as a Gift from the Infinite Giver. The Giver was revealing something of the Giver to this world, the receiver. The receiver-world is asked to say “Amen!” to what the Giver is saying about us all, the “many”. As Jesus was physically offered to the emptiness of the womb of Mary, and offered to the “many” while on earth, He continues being offered as a Gift from His Father to us, God’s “many”, not as a symbol, but as a grace-filled sacramental reality. He is as present in His offering to us as He was to these disciples surrounding Him in this Gospel narrative. In His Body we are re-membered re-united to each other as a sacred experience. We are reminded as we re-celebrate our being freed from our slaveries, that we are being brought into a sacred life, because we believe all that the Giver has said about us and who we are, because of the Body of Jesus Whose blood is the source of our new Passover-life.
“I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.” Ps. 116
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