The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ 
Corpus Christi (Lectionary: 168)
29 May 2024

Reading 1: Ex 24:3-8
Reading 2: Heb 9:11-15
Gospel: Mk 14:12-16, 22-26


Blood imagery is arguably the most striking element shared by each of this Sunday’s three readings.

Normally, as someone tasked with writing the Sunday Scripture Reflection, I’m grateful and excited whenever I find myself presented with offerings from the Lectionary with such an explicitly “common thread.”  If anything, it gives me a starting point—sometimes even the rough outline of an itinerary—for the hermeneutical journey that lies ahead.

In the case of these readings, however, with this common thread, and at this moment in time (early June of 2024), gratitude and excitement are not what I am feeling.

Instead, I feel deep grief and remorse.

Any mention of blood these days—even and perhaps especially the blood of Christ—immediately calls to mind the images of the horrific suffering of our countless sisters and brothers in Gaza, as well as the victims of the unconscionable massacre of 7 October in southern Israel.

All I can see, in my mind’s eye, are the blood-stained bodies of men, women, and especially children.

All I can think about is how most of the world seems to be sitting back in some combination of feigned helplessness and inexcusable indifference, while the sacred blood of thousands of innocents created in the image and likeness of God continues to be shed.

Rather than serving to fix and focus my attention on today’s readings, the mention of blood in the context of biblical revelation inexorably draws me to Genesis 4 where, in response to Cain’s futile attempt to elude punishment for his unspeakable crime by exhibiting a pathetically mendacious and equally inexcusable indifference (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”), God declares: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground!” (Genesis 4:9-11).

We would do well to reflect on this powerful metaphor of the “voice” of the blood of the slain innocent—a voice that cries out to God in unrelenting witness to the evil perpetrated on the victim of violence. It is a voice that loudly testifies to the depravity and sin of any attempt, by any human being or group of human beings, to obliterate the identity of even a single precious child of God who has tenderly been called into existence by their loving Creator.

It is as if the spilt blood of victims of violence and oppression is anything but a sign of the victory of the murderers who sought to consign them to oblivion. Instead, this blood that was the life force coursing through the veins of once living and breathing persons, becomes the everlasting sign and symbol of their identity as children of God—a voice that continues to speak their names and will not be silenced.


For me, it is through this connection between blood and identity, that I return to today’s readings.

In the first reading, we witness Moses reconstituting the community of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by sprinkling “the blood of the covenant” on the ancient Israelites. It is the blood of sacrificed bovines, spilt and asperged among the assembled who have agreed to fulfill “all that LORD has said,” that purifies and binds them together into a renewed covenant community. Through the blood of the holocausts of “young bulls,” the vast assembly of those who have been brought out of bondage in Egypt are given a new and indelible identity.

Assuming that it is possible to set aside, at least for a moment, the degree to which the second reading has been deployed for the regrettable purpose of declaring God’s covenant with the Jewish people to be invalidated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (e.g., the “old testament” versus the “new testament”), the intent of the preacher in this pericope of the Letter to the Hebrews seems obvious. It is to make clear that just as Moses sealed the reconstitution of the covenant community with the blood of sacrificial animals, so too does Christ seal his reconstitution of the covenant community with his own blood.

In the Gospel reading from Mark, we see Jesus explicitly giving new significance to what the evangelist understands to be the Passover meal by inviting those at table to understand his imminent death (and resurrection) as a medium of divine deliverance. Indeed, the author continues to weave the fabric of what many scholars have come to refer to as the “messianic secret” leitmotif of Mark’s gospel by portraying Jesus as taking yet another step in disclosing his true identity to his disciples.

In this pericope, however, Jesus is not only taking another step in disclosing his own identity as messiah; he does so by also conferring a new identity on those who share the meal with him. He breaks the bread and, as he does so, he mysteriously implies that—like their enslaved ancestors who once partook of the sacrificial lamb in Egypt (Exodus 12)—those who consume the bread of his sacrificial “body” will be forever bound to him as their savior.

Jesus then “seals the deal” of reconstituting his followers as a covenant community by making explicit reference to the passage of the Torah that comprises today’s first reading. Rather than sprinkling them with the “blood” as does Moses, he has them do something that the law would normally proscribe. He has them drink the blood of the sacrifice.

Only after they have imbibed, does Jesus inform those at table of the radical—even antinomian—nature of what has just occurred. He explicitly paraphrases the words from the Torah that appear in today’s first reading (“This is the blood of the covenant”; idou to haima tēs diathēkēs —LXX tr.) by saying: “This is my blood of the [new] covenant which will be shed for many” (touto estin to haima mou to tēs [kainēs] diathēkēs to peri pollōn ekxunomenon).

Echoing the passage from Exodus in today’s first reading, the message of Jesus to those at table with him is that his blood will be an everlasting witness to their identity as belonging to him and the covenant he embodies. No matter the apparent might of those who may attempt to obliterate their identity as his followers, these oppressors will not succeed because they cannot silence the testimony of the blood of the Messiah.

What can this mean for Christians in this moment—faced with the ongoing bloodshed of so many of our precious sisters and brothers in Gaza, Ukraine, Myanmar, and so many cities and towns right here in the United States?

It means that, just as the “voice” of the blood of Christ advocates on our behalf—witnessing to our identity as members of his body—we who call ourselves “Christian” must listen for, heed, and do our utmost to respond in word and action to the voices of the blood of the countless victims of war, oppression, and climate change, as they cry out to God for justice.

To stand idly by—feigning helplessness and exhibiting the inexcusable indifference of Cain—is to be utterly unworthy of the covenant which we, through our baptism, have pledged to uphold.


Scott C. Alexander, Ph.D.
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations
Director, Interschool Doctor of Ministry Program