The Precious Blood – Pastor’s Reflection
After the Second Vatican Council, the ancient feast of Corpus Christi became the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Precious Blood surrendering its separate feast on July 1. Blood so often provokes squeamishness. Conversely, it gives a visual assist to the thrill of violence to which so many of us seem addicted.
The Lord’s Passion has poured blood into the heart of our religious practice and imagery. Flowing in the collective veins of the Church, the Blood of Christ continues to stir emotions. The sharing of the chalice causes all kinds of problems: laity dread contagion and clergy fear spillage. At the same time, devout people look upon the blood flowing from the wounds of the crucified and recognize an agony accepted for their healing and eternal happiness.
July is the month of Precious Blood, so during these weeks we can ponder Jesus’ regard for blood. He accepted the shedding of his own blood as the culmination of his life and ministry, and he conveys the power and significance of that bloodshed through a shared cup. (“Take this all of you and drink from it, this is the Chalice of my blood.”) Here he drew on an ancient perception of blood that speaks powerfully to our time.
The ancient Semites understood blood as the creature’s principle of life. Here we find one of the core tenets of keeping kosher: one may not consume the blood of another creature. When an animal is slaughtered, for food or for sacrifice, its blood must be poured into the ground. While one might harvest the flesh and skin of the creature, one returns its life to the God who gave it.
All the more powerful than that Jesus commanded his followers to drink his blood. On the Cross Jesus returns his life to God by pouring his blood into us. The flow has never stopped. At the heart of the religion of Jesus lies a sharing of blood and hence of life, which blood represents. Yes, Jesus teaches and imparts wisdom, he also gives of his substance, spending his body in ministry for the welfare of others. Yet on the Cross Jesus gives the blood and shares the life. Here comes the generosity not only of the present but of the future.
When we give of our present, we give the body. We can finish the donated task and resume our life. With the gift of the blood we offer even more because we surrender our options and forfeit control of our future. So marriages, ordinations, and religious professions are all gifts of the blood. In them, simple kindness yields to the very gift of one’s insides. One who has given the blood no longer plans, or even dreams, independently, and with the gift of the blood, the future becomes “ours.”
So if the Church is the Body of Christ then his blood courses through her veins. Its warmth is perceived in those who have hitched their future to the Church’s, without leaving room for take backs.
Usually by this time of year we have celebrated a volunteer appreciation evening and taken the opportunity to acknowledge the gifts of the blood by which the Parish lives. The pandemic broke the external expression of our common life but not its reality. The outreach between people in these last weeks and months was wonderful to perceive. The generous spiritual, financial, and practical support extended by individuals to the community manifested its source in the sharing of life.
Nevertheless, we remember the life we have shared so as to frame a hope of sharing it again. Think of our world before March.
Here the blood filled lungs breathe to read, and sing with beauty and conviction.
Here the blood enlivened the hand to grasp the chalice and the paten, the organ keys, the collection basket, and the pruning shears.
Here the blood surged through the heart and motivated lively concern for the poor.
Here the blood energized the mind to parse a balance sheet, or discuss a policy.
Here the blood gave the courage to catechize the child and the adult.
Here the blood circulated with constancy to administer a school, a sacristy, a committee, a maintenance project.
Here the blood held warmth for the art of improvising a prelude, fashioning a cabinet, designing a garden, conceiving a poster, orchestrating a party.
Here was the marvel of wondrous things done, not for reward, or for fame, but so that the life might be shared which came from above so that we, sharing it liberally, might come to live above.
The Letter to the Hebrews speaks lyrically about the society lubricated and intoxicated by the Blood of the Lamb.
“You have drawn near to Mount Zion and the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels in festal gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.”
May we rejoice always in the marvel of the Body and Blood given and shared.
Published in our bulletin July 5, 2020