On June 30, Pope Francis spoke to various groups dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. He noted that his audience with them came on "the vigil of the month of July, when Christian piety turns in a special way to the Blood of Christ." As we enter into the culminating days of this month, it is good to reflect upon the Precious Blood for, as Pope Francis expressed, “the Blood of Christ is the fount of salvation for the world." God chose "the sign of blood because no other sign can express so eloquently the supreme love of a life given for others."
The gift of the Blood of Christ is given to us every time we celebrate the Eucharist for it is truly made present to us not as a symbol, but as a reality. It is here that we enter into the very giving of Christ to His Father upon the Cross as His Blood flows from His pierced Heart so that we might enter into the fullness of God's mercy and love. The meaning of the Precious Blood is expressed so deeply in the words of the Lord at the Last Supper when He gives us this sublime gift, "Take this all of you and drink from it for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."
As we reflect upon the Precious Blood of Christ, it is also well for us to reflect upon Mary who stood beneath the Cross and witnessed her Son's Blood flow from His wounds and from His pierced Heart. She was the first to understand the depth of His love poured out in His Blood and the first to experience its saving effect. As the Blessed Mother saw so vividly Christ's Blood, she no doubt realized that His Blood truly came into this world from her blood. Because of that intimate relationship which gave human life to Christ, her experience of the sacrifice of Christ's Blood was the most profound for anyone to experience and understand.
There are quite a few moving artistic depictions of Mary standing beneath the Cross and receiving the Blood of Christ, in a chalice, in some other vessel or even in her hands. The current English edition of the Roman Missal, before Eucharistic Prayer I, has a copy of the mosaic of the Crucifixion immediately above the altar of the Blessed Sacrament in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. In this mosaic, Mary holds an earthen vessel immediately under Christ's Heart to receive the Precious Blood which flows from it.
I believe that this depiction recalls the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of St. John when Mary asks the Lord to assist at the Wedding of Cana when the newly married couple ran out of wine for their guests. Jesus expresses to His mother that He could do nothing since His hour had not yet come. Mary disregards the words of Christ and tells the waiters to do whatever He asks. It is then, contrary to His original intention, that the Lord asks the waiters to fill six earthen vessels with water which He changes into wine. He begins His public ministry through the intercession of His mother and points to the hour of the fulfillment of His ministry upon the Cross. It is here that the hour of Christ has come and Mary is again intimately involved in the ministry of Christ. In the mosaic she receives, in an earthen vessel, the Blood of Christ mixed with water from His Heart which would be given to us under the appearance of wine. Mary understands the depth of the Eucharist more than anyone else.
There is another very moving depiction of Mary under the Cross receiving the Blood of Christ. In this she does so in a chalice. One of these depictions is on a small cross carried by St. Teresa of Calcutta on her rosary in what is known as the "unity cross." This cross was created by an artist who was a student of the first generation of a movement of seminarians who studied in Brazil and Switzerland. The original image is now in the Schoenstatt Seminary in Stuttgart, Germany.
Mother Teresa found a replica of this cross in the dirt in the streets of India and knew nothing of its history. She began to carry it with her. She discovered it again when she visited the Vatican and saw that it was the pectoral cross of the Archbishop of the Congregation for Consecrated Life. Mother Teresa told the Archbishop that this cross best expressed what she and her community wanted to do - to be like Mary standing by the Cross of Christ and meeting Him there especially in the poor and needy which they encountered. As she told the Archbishop, “Here is the Mother of God together with the Poorest of the poor.” The Archbishop sent her three thousand copies of this cross through the gift of donors, for her sisters. Mother Teresa understood that Mary received the Blood of her Son poured out for all men and women, no matter their background. She also wanted all to hear their invitation to the Eucharist.
When Pope Francis recently addressed the family of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, he expressed that, “Meditation upon the sacrifice of Christ leads us to accomplish works of mercy giving our lives unsparingly for God and our brothers and sisters.” In this regard, he exhorted the group to do three things: to witness to the courage of truth, to give attention to all, especially those who are at the peripheries, and to cultivate the ability to captivate and to communicate.
In regard to witnessing to the truth, we know how important it is to do so today when truth has become relative and political correctness takes its place. We realize that there is more of a concern to please the social order than to follow the plan of God. We need to have the courage to witness to the sanctity of life and the destruction of that life which abortion brings about. We need to have the courage to witness to God's plan in creating marriage as a union between a man and a woman who are meant to support each other and bring life into the world. It is Christ’s sacrifice which reveals His love and gives us the gift of courage.
In regard to giving attention to all, especially those who are at the peripheries, we realize that courage to proclaim the truth includes outreach to the poor, the needy, the neglected and the immigrant and the newcomer to our land. We must not only reach out to them we must welcome them and, in our commitment to life, keep families together. Mother Teresa certainly saw this need in the unity cross she loved so much and gave that attention to the people she served so lovingly.
Finally, in regard to cultivating the ability to captivate and to communicate, we must not be afraid to live our faith even when it seems unpopular and to proclaim that faith in a manner that shows to others the meaning and purpose it gives to life. Our best communication is our example. Pope Francis expressed we must never forget “that the true strength of Christian witness comes from the Gospel itself." This means relying upon the "superabundance of love expressed in the Blood of the Lord." Mary knows that receiving that Blood is at the core of what our faith is all about.
As we conclude the month of July and soon enter into the month of August, we do so always realizing that it is the love of God, expressed so deeply in the Precious Blood of His Son, that keeps us moving, focused and joyful.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
July 27, 2018