From the Pastor – August 19, 2012

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (Jn 6:53-54)

This year the Archdiocese of New Orleans is celebrating a “Year of Renewal: Offering a Worthy Sacrifice of Praise” at the direction of Archbishop Aymond. As I have written in the last three weeks in the bulletin, the most recent activity of the Year of Renewal is taking place from July 9 to August 26 as we read the “Bread of Life” discourse contained in John 6. The theme that I have been developing through my five homilies is the connection between the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the five selections from John 6.

The first week’s homily was on the book of Numbers and the multiplication of the loaves. Two weeks ago (now online) I discussed Exodus and how the Manna given by God in the desert prefigures God’s coming in the flesh to give the new Manna. Last week I discussed Deuteronomy, and how we understand Jesus as the new Moses who gives us the law face to face.

This Sunday we get closer to the understanding of the sacrificial nature of the Mass as I do my best to connect Leviticus – the book on priestly sacrifice – with the command of Jesus that we “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the Torah, and in fact the entirety of the Old Testament. God prepared His chosen people for His arrival by giving them the law, the prophets and the means to offer Him worthy praise and worship. When Jesus came in the flesh, His words and actions were not heard and seen in a vacuum. To use a more colloquial language, Jesus “made sense” of the commands of God because God was no longer simply “on high” but literally inserted into the human reality of salvation history as a human, Himself.

The command of Jesus to “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood” was not heard by the Jews as something utterly foreign. It was done in the contect of the Jewish understanding of animal sacrifice. Animals, which are God’s gifts to us, were given back to God as sacrificial (coming from the Latin word “to make holy”) offerings according to God’s commands. And as Jesus prepared to be the sacrifice, the “Lamb of God,” He helps us understand how we will participate in the eternal sacrifice through the unbloody sacrifice of the altar where we eat His flesh and drink His blood under the appearance of bread and wine. Two more weeks to get across the tightrope!

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty