Homily for 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 22, 2018
When someone donates blood to the Red Cross, they can save up to three lives. But I know someone whose Blood saved a hundred billion people – the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A lot of times in the Church, we talk about what we should do. But today, let’s talk about what God has already done for us in the shedding of His Blood. July is the month in the Church year dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus. And today’s second reading speaks about the value of this Blood and what it accomplished. So let’s take a look at why we should speak about and reverence the Blood of Jesus.
In the Jewish mindset, blood was equal to life. Still to this day, a devout Jew would never consume blood – so no blood pudding or rare steak. To shed something’s blood, even if a few drops were shed, is to deprive it of life. So it is hugely significant that the Chosen People were saved and cleansed by blood.
You may remember the Passover, when the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. God chooses to save them by having the blood of a lamb anoint the doorposts of their houses. Only the houses where the blood covered the door would be spared the death that awaited the first-born in Egypt.
Once they were freed, God began to reveal Himself to them. He extended the offer of friendship in the way of Covenants, and all Covenants were sworn through the shedding of blood. In fact, after Moses read the Law to the people for the first time, he splashed the blood of calves on the altar and on the people, symbolizing the union between God and His people…but also foreshadowing the Blood that would swear the New and Everlasting Covenant on the Cross.
But the blood of lambs and calves could not take away sin and reconcile us to God. We needed a sacrifice that was human, since it was humans who sinned. But we needed a human who was perfect, to offer to God a sacrifice unsullied by sin. That one Person was Jesus Christ, who was not afraid to shed His blood for the salvation of the world.
Jesus could have saved us with a single drop of His blood. He could have pricked His finger and a thousand worlds would have been freed from sin. But He chose to die in such a way that every drop of His blood was shed, to show us the vast extremes that God would go to love us.
If you’ve seen the movie “The Passion of the Christ”, you know how much blood was shed in His Passion. During the production of the movie, Mel Gibson was highly criticized for being anti-Semitic – people claimed that he portrayed the Jews as heartless and that they seemed to be guilty for the death of Christ. In response to this criticism, Gibson took out a scene which was directly from Scripture - where the Jewish leaders shouted to Pontius Pilate, “Let His blood be upon us and upon our children!”
When we say “His blood be upon us,” we’re saying that we are responsible for that person’s death. The Jewish leaders were speaking for all of us, for the whole human race, when they recognized their responsibility for the death of Jesus. All of us, without exception, are the reason why Christ died. It was our sins that put Him on that Cross, and it was for our salvation that He shed His Precious Blood.
But Pope Benedict XVI made an interesting comment about this. He said that while “blood on your hands” usually means guilt, with Christ’s blood it means forgiveness! We should want to invoke Christ’s blood to be upon us, because only those who have been cleansed by Christ’s Blood are truly forgiven!
So what does all this mean for us? A couple things. First, what an honor it is to be able to receive Christ’s Blood in the Holy Eucharist! We believe in a doctrine called concomitance (don’t worry, this won’t be on a test). Concomitance means that when we receive the Sacred Body we also receive the Precious Blood. So even if you just receive the Host, you are also receiving His Precious Blood. After all, a body without blood is dead, but in the Eucharist we are receiving His Living Body, so we believe that we receive both Body and Blood together! This is how we steep ourselves in His mercy and protection – by receiving His Precious Blood worthily every week!
And even when we cannot receive Him, we can invoke His Precious Blood upon ourselves. A couple weeks ago I was with our Trinity kids at Brownstone Park, which is this outdoor water park over by Hartford where you can cliff jump, zip line into water, and lots of other things. I was preparing to go on the tallest zip line, over a hundred feet tall, and was being clipped in by one of the Brownstone employees. As he’s clipping me in, I noticed that he was wearing a chain…with a pentagram around his neck! (A pentagram is a Satanic symbol – a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle). Standing on a hundred-foot cliff with a member of the Church of Satan is not a comfortable experience! As I was standing there, feeling quite creeped out, I immediately invoked the Blood of Jesus Christ, asking His blood to cover me and to cover this heavily-tattooed man. Knowing that spiritually I was covered in the Precious Blood of Christ brought me great comfort…as he pushed me off the cliff (which was what he was supposed to do, since I was clipped into my zip line!).
What a great value there is in the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ! His Blood has saved us, redeemed us, freed us. His Blood was the price paid for our salvation. This month, we honor His Precious Blood and acknowledge all that He has done for us out of love!