Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Hearing the story of Moses ratifying the covenant by sprinkling blood upon the people, we are reminded of the great cultural distance separating us from the ancient Israelites. Can you imagine the media reaction if Pope Francis walked among the pilgrims of World Youth Day, sprinkling them with the blood of a bull?
Spanning that distance is not impossible, though. And it is worth our effort to attempt such a task. What would that have meant to stand in the midst of an assembly and have sacrificial blood rain down upon you? Surely it must not have been so much less shocking for them as it would be for us? What does this blood symbolize? Blood is the seat of life (as when we use the term lifeblood). This new covenant with its law will be the lifeblood of the people, a union more intimate than they had experienced before.
Blood also symbolized death. The shedding of blood is the escape of one’s very life. Thus, the people are saying that if they reject the covenant that will be their life, they are in effect choosing their own death. The stakes are high as they enter into this covenant.
Although we no longer go about sprinkling our assemblies with the blood of animals, we nevertheless live under the New Covenant ratified by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. This new covenant with its new law is a matter of life or death for us. Life in the Holy Spirit or death in the distracted boredom of alienation from God. From across the centuries, today’s reading calls us to return to the fundamental decision that defines our lives.