Give the gift of life.

Donate blood, donate life.

People live when people give.

Every blood donor is a lifesaver.

Those slogans are used to encourage people to participate in blood drives. They remind us that our donations of blood can literally save lives.

The scripture readings for this Sunday’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, direct our attention to the spiritual, life-saving properties of blood.

In the First Reading (Exodus 24:3-8), Moses reads aloud the laws and ordinances that God had given the Chosen People. In response the people proclaim, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”

Moses then ratifies that agreement, that covenant between God and his people. He takes blood from the animals sacrificed to God, some of which he had already splashed on the altar, and sprinkles it on the people.

The blood on the altar of God and the blood on the people symbolized the intimate relationship between God and his people. As Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you.”

For the Jewish people, the life force was believed to be in the blood, so this sharing of blood highlighted God sharing his life with his people. They had a “blood relationship.”

This idea is also seen in the New Covenant ratified not with the blood of animals, but with the blood of Christ.

In the Second Reading (Hebrews 9:11-15), we hear how Jesus gave his life for his people. He shed his blood not because God demanded such a sacrifice, but because Jesus was determined to remain faithful to God even in the face of death. Jesus refused to deny his identity and his mission.

In the Gospel reading (Mark 24:12-16, 22-26), we hear the account of the Last Supper. There Jesus shares a cup of wine with his disciples and declares, “This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.” He establishes a relationship between God and his people far greater than the one ratified by the blood of animals.

Each time we receive Holy Communion, we share in the blood of that New Covenant, that new relationship with God.

Even when we receive only the host, we receive the blood of Christ. For as the Church tells us, “Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1390)

Today’s Feast focuses our attention on the great gift of the Eucharist by which we are united with Christ and with all those who share with us at the altar of the Lord. We truly are blood brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today’s feast also reminds us that Jesus Christ is the one blood donor who can truly be called a life saver. His donation saves us from everlasting death and brings us to eternal life.

© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski