This homily was given at a Votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood at the church of Ss Francis and Anthony, Crawley:
There are certain devotions that, to those looking on from outside – and perhaps sometimes to those inside the Church – can seem at best odd, and at worst perverse. We think of the glory given to the Cross (an instrument of torture) or the paradox of the Sacred Heart, that bleeds and burns itself up for love of us. We might also include in that, devotion to the Most Precious Blood. With eyes of faith, though, we can see beyond a merely human reaction and understand why the Church maintains and preserves this beautiful tradition, opening up to us, by it, an ever-richer life of grace.
In his letter Inde a primis, on promoting devotion to the Most Precious Blood, Blessed Pope John XXIII reminds us that the blood of Christ was poured out for us “first at his circumcision eight days after birth, and more profusely later on in his agony in the garden, in his scourging and crowning with thorns, in his climb to Calvary and crucifixion, and finally from out that great wide wound in his side which symbolises the divine Blood cascading down into all the Church’s sacraments”. In other words, from his consecration to the Father in the temple until the consummation of his redeeming works on the cross, Christ’s blood symbolises for us the fidelity of God the Father, and the sacrifice made for us in atonement for our sins. Beyond that, even, the sacraments – the means of grace by which we grow in our love of the Lord – are instituted through Christ’s blood-shed, so that like the deer that yearns for running streams, our souls may be refreshed with the grace that flows from the fount of all life, which is God himself (cf. Ps. 42).
In the Book of Genesis (cf. Gen. 4) we read of the blood of Abel, shed by his brother Cain, crying out to God from the dust of the earth. In response, the Lord casts the murderer Cain out from the land, to a life of fruitless labour. Conversely, through the new covenant in Christ, we are restored to that rightful home – the heavenly Jerusalem – through his blood, freely given for our salvation, and in atonement for sins. In the words of Saint Alphonsus of Liguori, perhaps better known to us in the hymn Glory be to Jesus, “Abel’s blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies / but the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries”. In the words of Pope Benedict, “the Blood of Christ is the pledge of God’s faithful love for humanity” (Angelus 5 July 2009).
So, in this month of July, dedicated to the Most Precious Blood, let us seek – as did the People of Israel – to be sprinkled once more by the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with us (cf. Ex. 24:8); not a covenant sealed by the blood of bulls and goats, but sealed by the Most Precious Blood of Christ, that comes to us in the sacrifice of the Eucharist and that, even now, comes to nourish us with the Lord himself, so that we might be united to him for all eternity (cf. Heb 10).