We’re on our second contract with God, and if I were Him I’d have sued us a long time ago. Humanity isn’t much better at living up to the terms of this second one as we were with the first. The fact there had to be a second covenant says as much about us as God’s children as it does about God as our Father. Looking over at God’s side of the bench, who couldn’t help but be impressed by his infinite mercy and forgiveness each time we went back on our terms? On our side of the bench we seem to have an infinite ability to screw things up.
As we see in this Sunday’s first reading (Ex 24:3-8), Moses knew how fallible we were, judging by the way he delivered the word of God to the people. He didn’t just write those words down for them to read, he pounded home the message that this covenant was sealed in blood by sprinkling people with it. Bull’s blood, that is.
“This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his,” Moses said.
“All these words of his.” That sounds almost like Moses had his doubts about the people’s ability to take all those words to heart and honor the covenant—even with the symbolic sprinkling of blood to seal the deal. And if he was concerned, he was justified. As simple as the Ten Commandments are, we’ve always found new and creative ways to twist and break them.
Yet, in his infinite mercy, God drafted a new covenant—hand-delivered by his own son and sealed in HIS blood, not some animal as dumb as we are. Paul further characterized the difference between the two covenants in our second reading (Heb 9:11-15):
“If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”
Unlike Moses, Jesus had the power to make us understand his words by preaching in parables and using powerful symbols that would burn themselves in our memory. In fact he was and is and will always be God’s word made flesh. We aren’t just meant to hear this Word, but consume it so it becomes part of us. Our gospel reading (Mk 14:12-16, 22-26) repeats the words we hear during the offertory of every mass:
“He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
This is the contract we’ll be holding when we finally face our Judge for a review of how well we absorbed its terms. Not a word of it will have been changed from the time his son delivered it to us. It will be up to us not only to demonstrate the depth of the Word’s penetration of our soul, but the legitimacy of the name we signed in his blood on the bottom line. It will read “His.” Of course, he’ll be the judge of that.