Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

In saying ‘Amen’ we proclaim we will do all the Lord has told us

Published: July 12, 2003

By Msgr. Richard Oswald

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, as the priest speaks the words of consecration, we hear Christ’s words: “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.” In the Old Testament “covenant” is the name given to the promises God makes to his people and to the promises his people make in response.

The concept of covenant is the way in which the Bible speaks of the relationship between God and God’s faithful people. The two most important covenants found in the Old Testament are God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah described in chapters 15 and 17 of Genesis and the covenant God made with his people at Mount Sinai found in chapters 19, 20 and 24 of Exodus.

Abraham and Sarah are promised a land and countless descendants. They are called to place their faith in God and in God’s promises even though they are elderly wanderers. The ritual that seals the agreement is a ceremony in which Abraham arranges the halves of several slaughtered animals in two rows and God, in the form of a flaming torch, passes between them. It is God’s way of saying, “If I fail to keep my promises, may I be cut apart like these animals.”

At Mount Sinai God promises Moses and the Israelites they are his special people, dearer than all other people, and they will have their own land. They are called to give all of their allegiance to God and to be faithful to the law expressed in the Commandments. Two ritual actions seal the agreement. Young bulls are sacrificed and Moses takes their blood and sprinkles half of it on the altar and the other half on the people.

Then Moses and the leaders of the people go to the mountaintop and eat a meal in God’s presence. Both actions are a sign that life is shared. The connection between blood and life is essential. To share blood was to share life. Sprinkling the same blood on the altar, which represented God, and on the people said now God and the people had the same blood. Now they were family.

To share food was to share that which sustains life and to become responsible for the life of those with whom the food was shared. Celebrating Passover, which is a renewal of the exodus and Sinai events, Jesus connected himself and us with the covenant tradition of Mount Sinai. As the blood of bulls united the Israelites with God his “blood of the new and everlasting covenant” united God and the Church.

Now we are family, we share life with God. The new covenant is sealed at a meal, the Last Supper. The food shared is the body and blood of Jesus. When Moses came to the people and announced God’s great promises and his expectations of them they answered with one voice, “We will do everything the Lord has told us.”

Every Sunday, when we celebrate the Eucharist, we again announce God’s great promises and we pray through the Holy Spirit we will become the people God calls us to be. Next we present to the Father the offering of his Son. We then say with one voice, “Amen,” a word we must give the most serious consideration, a word that must honestly describe our relationship with God.

When we say “Amen” we recommit ourselves to our covenant with Jesus and his Father. We say with the Israelites, “We will do everything the Lord has told us.”