Saturday, August 10, 2013

19th Sunday Year C (Gospel: Luke 12:32-48) The Passover and the Mass

(This picture is part of the apparition of Knock, Ireland, where in 1879, 30 people saw a vision of the Lamb of God on the altar, surrounded by angels and accompanied by Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John)

Any time I find myself in a situation of stress or suffering, I always hope and pray that God will show me a way out, or send someone to show me a way out.  I think most of us do that.  The Passover feast for the Jewish people which is mentioned in the first reading, is a reminder for the Jewish people of the time when God gave them a way out.  They were in a desperate situation, enslaved in Egypt and suffering greatly.  They didn’t know what to do but they had been praying to God to help them.  Then out of the blue, God sent this man Moses who was now old, to lead them to freedom.  It is a bit like a lot of the Middle Eastern countries at the moment which are living under dictators.  Not only was Pharaoh a dictator, but he considered himself a god.  The feast of Passover celebrates the night when God gave them a way out of a desperate situation.  The final event that enabled them to go free is a very interesting one because it is so like the mass.  What happened was this:

Moses told the people, to take a goat or lamb and to kill it and have it for a meal.  They were also told to put the blood of the lamb on the door posts of their homes as a sign that they belonged to God, because what was going to happen that night was something terrifying.  That night God sent the angel of death to go throughout the land and kill all the first born as a final warning to Pharaoh, but when the angel saw the blood of the lamb on the doors he would ‘pass over’ that house; hence the name Pass-over.  The people were being saved from death by the blood of the lamb.  This would once and for all make Pharaoh realize that God was real and that God was not to be messed with.  When he saw this sign he would let the people of Israel go free and that’s exactly what happened. 

To our thinking it probably seems terrible that God would send an ‘angel of death’ to strike down the first born in any household, even if they were not the people of God.  But this is also a Biblical way of telling us that if we are not following the true God it will only lead us to death.  Following the path the Lord shows us is the path that leads to life, the path that leads to him.

Now if you jump forward to the time of Jesus a few thousand years later, remember what John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus: ‘There is the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.’  When Jesus was killed on Calvary it was just after they had celebrated the Passover meal, which was the last supper.  Jesus was the Lamb who was being sacrificed on behalf of his people.  And just like in the Passover meal the people ate the flesh of the Lamb and marked their houses with its blood, so we eat the body of the Lamb of God when we receive the Eucharist.  But what are we being set free from?  From eternal death, from losing God when we die, from meaninglessness.  Each time we receive Holy Communion we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus who is the Lamb.  We are being united to Jesus in an extraordinary way by taking his Body into our body.  We are saying that we belong to God.  He is giving us the chance of life with him in heaven.

God does not want anyone to be ‘lost’, or to put it a different way, to lose the happiness that He has created us for and so God shows us the path to follow.  That path is in and through Jesus.  So we continually unite ourselves to Jesus in each mass.  Just before we receive Holy Communion the priest holds up the host and says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God.  Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.’

It says in the first reading that the people knew the Passover and this gave them courage, because they knew that God was with them helping them.  The Holy Mass for us is an even stronger reminder that God is with us, showing us the way forward, the way that gives us hope and most importantly the way that leads to God.  But for us it is not just a symbolic reminder, but we believe it is really and truly the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive in each mass.  This is an extraordinary idea and one that many people found hard to accept from the first time that Jesus taught this.  It says in St. John’s Gospel that when Jesus taught this first many of his disciples stopped going with him.  They said, ‘It’s too much.  Who can accept this teaching?’  And when many stopped following him Jesus said to his disciples, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’  He didn’t say, ‘Oh let me explain what I really meant.’  That teaching has remained the same to this day and that is why we believe it is really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ we receive at Communion, because it is Jesus himself who taught us this.

Behold the Lamb of God; 
Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.’

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