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Gospel for Sunday, June 02: Mark 14:12-26; 16:22-26

Feast of Corpus Christi

12 On the first day of the Unleavened Days, when the Passover was being immolated, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go to prepare so that you can eat the Passover?’ 13 Then he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man will come to meet you with a pitcher of water; follow him 14 and there where he enters say to the master of the house, The Master says, Where is my room, that I may eat the Passover there with my disciples? 15 He will show you on the upper floor a large room with carpets, already prepared; there prepare for us.” 16 The disciples went, and when they entered the city, they found as he had told them and prepared for the Passover… 22 While they were eating, he took bread and, having pronounced the blessing, broke it and gave it to them, saying, “Take, this is my body.” 23 Then he took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant shed for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine until the day I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 And after singing the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”.

Mk 14:12-26; 16:22-26

Care sorelle e fratelli della Misericordie, sono Carlo Miglietta, medico, biblista, laico, marito, padre e nonno ( Anche oggi condivido con voi un breve pensiero di meditazione sul Vangelo, con speciale riferimento al tema della misericordia.

Preparation for Easter: 14:12-16

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Regarding the date of Jesus’ death, the Synoptic Gospels affirm the Last Supper between the 14th and 15th (Mark 14:12 and par.) and the crucifixion on Friday, Nisan 15, the first day of Passover, which lasted from Nisan 15 to 21. For John, Jesus was crucified on the day of Parasceve (the preparation for the Passover Sabbath), that is, on Nisan 14, at the hour when lambs were sacrificed (19:14,31-37,42): Jesus and his people would have followed the calendar in use at Qumram and among the Essenes, which placed the Passover supper always on a Tuesday and Passover always on a Wednesday, and Jesus would then have died on a Friday, that is, the eve of Passover according to the official calendar.

Why is it claimed that Jesus used the calendar of the Essenes? Because of a peculiarity. When Jesus wants to prepare for Passover, it is said, “Go into the city and a man will come to meet you with a pitcher of water; follow him” (Mark 14:13): a Temple-observant Jew would never have brought a pitcher of water: that would have been an impure action. Going to fetch water, in fact, was the duty only of women. In contrast, the Essenes were more … democratic, and already had some equality: according to the Qumram texts, men also did these women’s jobs. If Jesus asks an Essene (who was characterized in that he did these things, which official Jews would never do) to prepare the place, in all likelihood Jesus follows this on their timetable.

But there is also a baptismal-type reference here. The pitcher filled with water is a symbol of Baptism leading to the Eucharist.

It is very important to reflect on the symbol of the room. The room of God is now no longer the Temple but is the Eucharist. The place where IHWH is present, is no longer the Holy of Holies, but will be the bread and wine given for all.

The institution of the Eucharist: 14:22-25

The Eucharist prophetic “mime”

Getting men to eat: When Jesus institutes the Eucharist, he first and foremost operates a prophetic mime. What he accomplishes at the Last Supper is “the last parable of Jesus” (J. Jeremias). In offering the bread, he says, “This is my body given for you”; in offering the cup, “This is my blood, poured out for you” (Lk 22:19-20): the first meaning of this action is that he gave himself totally to men, that his life was full oblation for the lives of his brothers and sisters, that he was entirely consumed for them, and that he became, by offering himself for them as the bread and wine, their support and survival. “Before his disciples Jesus makes a mime of his death, representing it before them; it is the attitude of a prophet and a martyr who carries the mission to its fulfillment” (A. Marchadour).

The voluntariness of the gift: There are two emphases that Jesus wants to give to his act. The first is the absolute voluntariness of his giving of himself: his becoming man unto death is not given by the inevitability of chance, but is his free choice of love (Jn 10:18). Jesus thus voluntarily accepts to the end his sharing with man: he does not back down, he does not flee. Deliberately he offers himself. “That is why at the Last Supper ‘se dat suis manibus’ his Passion will be the Body given and the Blood shed by him” (A. Bozzolo).

The totality of the gift: The second aspect of the prophetic mime is the absolute totality of his self-giving: Christ, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1), until the supreme fulfillment of love, which is to give one’s life for those one loves (cf. Jn. 15:13): the bread eaten and the wine drunk are the sign of this “consuming himself” for his own, making himself all for them.

The command to imitate Jesus: Two commands accompany the prophetic action: the first is: “Take, eat…; drink” (Mk 14:22; Mt 26:26, 28): the disciples are not just passive objects of this self-giving of Christ, but are invited to take an active part in it, to participate in his love, to accept his life as a gift, to fill themselves consciously and responsibly with him. From this comes the second command: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24): Jesus commands that his disciples also make themselves bread and drink for others, become food for all, let themselves be “eaten” by their brothers and sisters.

The importance of Eucharistic mime: In the biblical reading of mime, the first meaning is thus the invitation to total gift to others, following the example of the Master. The other meanings (the real presence of

Christ, the sacrifice of the New Covenant, an eschatological sign…), are certainly there, but they are secondary to this and draw light and understanding from it.

“Flesh and blood”

“Basar” and “wadam,” flesh and blood, were also the two parts of the covenant sacrifice, of the new covenant announced by the prophets but especially by Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34). By now there are no more sacrificial victims to offer, no more lambs to sacrifice; Jesus is the one who immolated himself for us, and reconciled us in a definitive way with the Father.

The symbolism of wine has very complex characters in biblical literature. In fact, we find numerous references to wine, both in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. In the book of Genesis Noah is remembered as the founder of viticulture, and also as the one who first experienced the intoxicating effects of wine (Gen 9:20-21).

It is “important to note that the invention of wine is placed immediately after the passage in which God establishes his covenant with Noah and all living things, and the covenant is a promise of life for mankind-there will be no more floods of waters to destroy it-the sign of which is the rainbow” (M. Donà).

This promise of life will culminate in the great covenant between God and man sealed in the blood of Christ. Symbolic of that covenant is precisely wine. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Jesus’ earthly experience opens with the miracle of the transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana (Jn. 2) and closes with the Last Supper, where wine is eminently present as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, of the new covenant between God and men in that blood (Mk. 14:24). This act of Christ has a famous antecedent in the Bible. It is the encounter between Melchizedek, king of Salem, and Abraham, progenitor of the Jewish people, who returns victorious from a certain battle done to free his nephew Lot. Melchizedek “priest of the most high God” comes to him to offer him “bread and wine” and bless him (Gen 14:18-20).

For the author of Genesis, the offering of bread and wine presented to Abraham was a sign of sacred hospitality: welcome, safety, permission to transit. The New Testament, especially the letter to the Hebrews, presents Melchizedek as a prefiguration of Christ Jesus, the true High Priest who offers his own body and blood symbolized by the bread and wine.

In the Christian tradition presented in the New Testament, wine will always retain this high symbolism, connected to salvation and life. There are also numerous references to the symbolism of the vine. Here are some significant expressions that we find on the lips of Jesus: “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser… I am the vine and you are the branches” (Jn. 15:1). In the New Testament, therefore, the vine represents Christ, the One from whom the branches draw lifeblood. The branches are His disciples, who must remain intimately attached to Him, just like branches to the vine! If

these branches remain attached well to the vine, they will bear much fruit; Jesus is for them way, truth, life, so to the Latin motto: “in vino veritas,” the Gospel responds with, “Jesus veritas.”

Wine, in its translated meaning, is not only a symbol of life and salvation, but also of love. Indeed, in the Song of Songs, one of the highest poetic texts in Holy Scripture, wine becomes the seal of the union of love between the beloved and the beloved. It is no accident that the first word of the Song of Songs is precisely the one describing an intoxicating kiss accompanied by “tenderness sweeter than wine”: “You kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! Yes, your tendernesses are sweeter than wine… Draw me after you, let us run! Introduce me to the king’s chambers: we will rejoice and be glad for you, we will remember your tendernesses more than wine. Rightly do they love you!” (Chr. 1:2-4). Ardor and intoxication come together in these verses, thus rendering all the ecstasy of the newlyweds, the protagonists of the Song, wrapped in a fine net, similar to that produced by wine. The suavity of wine is the comparison most often used in the Song to express the intoxication of love. The lover’s first happy encounter with his beloved is precisely in the “wine cell”: “He has brought me into the wine cell, and his banner over me is love. Support me with buns of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love” (Ct. 2:4). It is well known that in ancient times the “wine cellar” was a kind of cellar where wine was stored, but it was also at the same time a hut used for harvesting, and it could also be a room where one could indulge in enjoying food washed down with generous wines. In the Song, the “wine cell” is the bridal chamber where the bride and groom celebrate their love feast. The “grape buns” are the sustenance the woman asks for. They were considered by the Orientals as a powerful aphrodisiac, but they were also votive offerings to obtain fertility. In addition to the buns, the woman also asks for apples, which were, according to a belief still widespread among Arabs today, one of the remedies for impotence.

The other beautiful scene connected with the symbol “wine and intoxication” is presented in the Song in chapter 7, where the beloved urges her lover to lead her to the vineyards; here she will give him “her love”: “Your palate is like exquisite wine, flowing straight to my beloved and flowing on her lips and teeth! I am for my beloved and his longing is toward me. Come, my beloved, let us go to the fields, let us spend the night in the villages. Early in the morning we will go to the vineyards; we will see if the vine buds, if the flowers bloom, if the pomegranates blossom: there I will give you my love” (Song 7:3-10). The poet involves in the intoxication of love, which pervades the entire book, not only the taste but also the smell, in a continuous and increasing exaltation of scents, spices and aromas. As Ravasi states, “wine and food become symbols destined to exalt the triumph of love that transfigures the whole being of man and woman.” Smell and taste mingle, then, in this book and become the most powerful vehicles with which to seal the triumph of love.

It is no accident that the Eucharist is instituted within a banquet and celebrated as such from the very beginning of the Church: “They broke bread at home by taking their meals with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:42-48). According to many scholars, the same Eucharistic anaphoras that have come down to us from the early Christian community would be modeled on the “Birkat-ha-Mazon,” the final blessing that concluded every Jewish meal and consisted of three parts: a brief blessing (“Blessed are you, Lord, who nourishes the whole world…”), a solemn thanksgiving for God’s gifts to Israel, and an intercessory prayer full of trust in God, who will always fill his people with his graces. Early Christians said of themselves, introducing themselves to the pagans, “Aras non habemus,” “We have no altars,” emphasizing the lack in Christianity of the traditional sacrifice, replaced by the Eucharistic banquet. There was no altar in the beginning; there was only the table. The convivial aspect is primary to the understanding of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist food for life.

Eating is indispensable for living: the Eucharist is food for life: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will no longer hunger, and whoever believes in me will no longer thirst… For my flesh is true food and my blood true drink’” (Jn. 6:35,48,51,55).

The Eucharist assimilates us to Christ

For the Jews, the food did not become the person who eats it, but the person who eats becomes like the food ingested-that is why there was so much focus on “pure” and “unclean” foods. So the Eucharistic bread and wine that we eat does not become part of us, but we become the very Christ that we eat. By eating of the Eucharistic bread and drinking of the Eucharistic wine we become “christified,” transformed into the Lord: “Jesus said, ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’” (Jn. 6:53-54,56-57). By feeding on Christ we become him! Said Maximus the Confessor (580-662), “The Eucharist transforms the faithful into itself.”

The Eucharist “meal of communion” with God

In the Old Testament, “communion meals” are often mentioned. The Eucharist is a time of encounter with God, of intimacy with him: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion with the blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not communion with the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16, 18). But it is then a time of deep communion not only with the Lord who invites us to the banquet, but also with all the guests. “Since there is one bread, we, though many, are one body: for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). The Eucharist is a communal moment par excellence. It is the gathering of brothers around the one table. The Eucharist is not an individual sacrament: it is always an occasion of a true covenant encounter with men, of solidarity with them. Making it an intimate seclusion with the Lord

without living this experience together with the whole Church and the whole world is to distort the inalienable convivial meaning of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist announcement of the Coming One

While the Eucharist is a proclamation of the Lord’s first advent, it is also a proclamation of his second and final coming: “For as often as you eat of this bread and drink of this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). That is why in the Eucharistic liturgy of the early Christians resounded the very cry, “Maranatha! Come, O Lord!” (1 Cor. 16:22). In the Eucharist we do not worship a corpse, but the One who is the Living One today and always.

John Paul II writes: “He who feeds on Christ in the Eucharist does not have to wait for the hereafter in order to receive eternal life: he already possesses it on earth, as the firstfruits of the future fullness, which will concern man in his totality. Indeed, in the Eucharist we also receive the guarantee of bodily resurrection at the end of the world: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:54)… With the Eucharist we assimilate, so to speak, the “secret” of the resurrection. Hence St. Ignatius of Antioch rightly called the Eucharistic Bread a ‘drug of immortality, an antidote against death’” (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 2003, no. 18).

Buona Misericordia a tutti!

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