Exodus 24: 3-8; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26
Passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle…
These are the words we hear from the writer of Hebrews today, coupled with countless images in the first reading and gospel today about the preparations for some kind of memorial or celebration of sorts that are taking place in their lives. Of course, for the disciples, whether they know it or not, it’s a time of preparation for the loss that they are about to experience in the death of Jesus. We all know when we have important events in our lives the great deal of preparation that comes with such events, such as weddings and births and so many other milestones that we mark. Jesus even uses his impending death as an opportunity to prepare his disciples for something greater. We also know the preparation comes with a great deal of stress at times, people upset and angry at times, heck, we know it can be a painful time for people, and yet, when that baby is born or we watch the smiles and the love of a newly married couple, it seems all but forgotten.
And yet, there is that image from the writer of Hebrews, of the passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle and the two passages in Jesus’ life, first from that tabernacle we call Mary’s womb to the great tabernacle of the tomb that opens the doors, wide, for the eternal, even before the very eyes of his disciples. There are these great passages that we mark in our lives as well, yet, very much one and the same in some ways, of the passing through. But we gather here today mindful of this feast and mindful of our own preparations in life for an experience of the eternal, not simply at the end of our time but at this very moment, revealed and opened to us through and in this Eucharist that we celebrate.
Yet, by the time we get here much has probably gone on, sending texts, busy with the kids, working, or whatever the case may be, myself included, that we must ask ourselves what kind of preparation have we made to allow ourselves to enter into and pass through this more perfect tabernacle, mindful of our own call to be a temple of the Spirit? If you read Mark’s gospel from beginning to end, when you finally get to this point of the preparation for the Last Supper, there is a dramatic slowing down that takes place and more meaning to the preparation than for anything else in the gospel. Go into the city, a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water, go to the upper room that is already furnished and ready for us, you can almost begin to see ourselves with the disciples preparing for what they thought was a meal and a memorial but as always, Jesus has something more in mind and will once again invite them to a new place and an new understanding of himself that they won’t readily accept or understand. All they can do is take it all in and allow it to transform them.
But there’s also great detail in this passage from Exodus. We hear about erecting an altar, the twelve pillars, sacrifice, the splashing of blood, the reading of the covenant aloud, again, we can begin to step back into a different reality that there is something that I am witnessing before my eyes and yet, somehow know that there is something deeper going on that is not seen, invisible in a sense, that is in someway speaking to me in a place that is so deep and yet beyond that it is beyond comprehension, another invitation to pass through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, birth and death taking place before me and yet within at the same time. The images are dramatic and life-like, transforming in a way that can’t be described, done by the grace of God.
This feast we celebrate today in the Body and Blood of Christ is about all of it. It’s about the preparation that we make and that we allow God to take within us. It’s about the sacrifice and even the splashing of blood. Yet, as much as it sometimes seems beyond us, and it is, we come mindful of just how close this God really is, all at the same time. Maybe, and most importantly, it is about the seen and the unseen. It’s easy to be fooled when we see bread and wine just as much as it is to easily be fooled by people that turn out exceeding expectations. Our eyes can deceive us as much as they can invite us into the passing through of the greater and more perfect tabernacle and a deeper experience of life and death in this Eucharist. We see one thing, but in due time and with ongoing preparation, the eyes of our hearts and souls take over and finally we begin to see the true essence, not only in this Eucharist but in our very lives.