There is a powerful word in Jewish and Catholic circles, the word is Covenant. You can find it in the bible in many places and all of them are significant. Not once is that word used in a benign manner.
What does the word mean? Covenant according to several sources and bible scholars as cited in the Lexham Bible dictionary is an oath or agreement similar to, but more solemn than a contract. As a contract deals specifically with property, covenant deals with self giving and commitment in life and relationships.
You sign a contract when you want to buy a house, you make a covenant when engage in a mutual commitment.
Married couples enter a marriage covenant and then go sign a lease contract for their apartment at Joe’s Apartment Emporium.
The act of covenant is a solemn oath and must not be taken lightly, nor should it be entered into lightly, for it is a self commitment of each party to each other.
In Today’s first reading, we see the Hebrews who agreed to the commands in the Book of the Covenant and have chosen to commit themselves to God, aware that God is committed to them. It is sealed in a sacred liturgy including the sacrificing of a lamb and it is established.
Later, when Joshua recommits the community as they enter the promised land, He again invites this new generation to recommit to the covenant with God with the words: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
So the word covenant which indicates the action of making a solemn commitment of one’s whole existence to another, in this case, God, is not a word to be taken lightly.
If it is more solemn, more sacred and more powerful than the word contract, notice how you feel when a contract is brought out at $200 per month for the next six years for that brand new car and you realize that this is not something to be taken lightly. Do you really want to commit that much money and that much time for that car because it has an automatic sandwich maker in the trunk. That is a serious thing to ask yourself because that is the whole nature of the contract. How much more intense is a covenant
This brings us to today’s solemnity: Corpus Christi the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
If you look at the Gospel reading, you see not only was the Eucharist established at the Last Supper, it was established as a covenant, the new and final covenant between God and His people through the death and resurrection of His Son. God commits Himself to us as He leads us to eternal life; but covenants are not one-sided. They are two sided or even more.
The Covenant God makes with his people is responded to with the covenant we make with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. God’s covenant with us does not apply if we do not respond to the same covenant to Him.
Therefore, just as the Eucharist is the sign of God’s commitment to us, so is our receiving it a sign of our commitment to Him. It is not a benign act and should not ever be taken lightly.
When you come down that aisle to receive the Eucharist from priest or Eucharistic minister, you are entering into a recommitment to the covenant God makes with you. Everytime you receive the Eucharist.
This is why one should not receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin because, that is by default an act that rejects the contract with God.
A mortal sin by definition is you breaking your part of the covenant God makes with you. You cannot commit a mortal sin by accident, under duress and without a strong reflection. It is a purposeful serious act that breaks one’s relationship with God. So when that person comes to receive the Eucharist he or she lies to God. It is like signing a contract with your fingers crossed. It is a lie, because it is such a profound and solemn act to receive the Eucharist. This is the reason many are calling on politicians who are Catholic and support legislation that promotes abortion not to receive the Eucharist because they believe that one cannot endorse what destroys life and commit oneself to the author of life simultaneously.
Similarly, if someone is lost in a life of sin, but still comes to Mass, that person actually honors God by not receiving the Eucharist because he or she has indicated they are just not ready to engage in the covenant. In fact, their refraining while present in the Church is a form of prayer asking God to help them to commit or recommit to the covenant.
Whoever comes forward to receive the Eucharist is ratifying the Covenant set forth at the Last Supper. You are making a solemn act in the covenant with the Father through Jesus Christ. It is never a benign act. However, St Paul teaches in Second Corinthians that this covenant is different than the previous ones:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NABRE
That is the promise given to you from that same Covenant. It is God’s side of the deal in a sense.
During the reign of the Soviet Union people refrained from attending mass and probably as in China attended an underground church. Why? Because churches were filled with KGB agents who were spying on those who attended Mass. If parishioners received the Eucharist, the following day he or she was terminated from their jobs.
If the KGB took your receiving the Eucharist that seriously in a negative way, imagine what power it has for those who receive in a positive way.
So today, especially on this solemn day of the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, remember if you come forward to receive the Eucharist, this is a solemn act that ratifies your commitment to the covenant that God makes with you. It is no less than that at any Mass. It is something to let touch you to the depths of your soul for the rest of week.