The Law entrusted to Moses, and received by the tribes of Israel on Mount Sinai, initiated a completely new relationship between God and his people. The hidden God had revealed himself as the saviour of his people, binding himself to them forever in a solemn covenant. He would be their God, and they, through their fidelity to his will, would become his people.
This new beginning was marked by a communion sacrifice, a sacrifice whose significance would forever define the relationship between God and his people. To modern sensibilities, the details of this sacrifice are distasteful. The blood of the sacrificed bullocks was divided into two portions. One portion was reserved to God and placed on the altar. The other half was sprinkled upon the people as an expression of their consent to God’s law.
For a nomadic people the sacrifice of any animal was costly. We are reminded that our own relationship with God is costly. In choosing to live as his children, faithful to his ways, we must sacrifice something of our sinful past. In this sense, every genuine relationship is costly.
The Letter to the Hebrews understood Calvary as the fulfilment of Old Testament sacrifice. Jesus gave himself completely on the Cross, and, in this perfect self -giving, raised sinful humanity to a perfect communion with the Father. “He brings a new covenant so that the people called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised: his death took place to cancel the sins that infringed the earlier covenant.”
Relationships are costly, and Christ’s death paid a price that lay beyond the selfishness of our sinful humanity. Each and every celebration of the Eucharist is a communion with the Body and Blood of the Lord, a reminder that Christ has already paid the price for a relationship that we should never take for granted.
St Mark reminds us that the Last Supper took place at the very time when the sacrificial lamb was being prepared for the celebration of the Jewish Passover. In so doing he indicated that Jesus himself, by his death on the Cross, would become the lamb whose blood was shed for our deliverance.
His life, poured out on the Cross, would become the price of a new covenant, a new relationship with the Father. To receive his Body and Blood in Holy Communion is to give ourselves completely to a life lived with God. We become one with him who was sacrificed, and in so doing we sacrifice ourselves to his will. Relationships are costly.
This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (05/6/15).