My Dear Friends,
As we enter the two week period called passiontide, Holy Mother Church, through the words of St Paul to the Hebrews, turns our attention towards the blood of Christ, that blood that will be poured out on Good Friday and given to us to drink in the most Blessed Sacrament. The apostle compares the sacrifices of the Old Law in which the blood of animals was offered to God in order to achieve a ritual purification, with the Blood of Christ which effectively purifies our souls by wiping away our sins.
The first incident in Holy Scripture where we are confronted with the shedding of blood is the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. God, trying to solicit from the murderer some form of regret for his crime which he thought hidden, declares to him that the blood of his brother is crying out from the earth. Since the earth opened to swallow up the innocent blood it is cursed by God as is the murderer. But in the New Covenant, the Son of God Himself pours out His own blood, and St Paul tells us that His blood speaks louder and better than that of Abel. In other words, the crimes of man cannot drown out the merciful plea of the Blood of Jesus ever ready to atone for the sins of men, the sins of the whole world, and even for the sins of many other worlds if they existed. There never comes a time when the power to make satisfaction is lacking in the blood of Christ because its value is infinite thanks to the hypostatic union. This is the very Blood of the God Man, and one single drop of it is enough save the entire world.
Many saints, following in the footsteps of the apostles, have been inspired to unite themselves with the Blood of Jesus. In a well-known passage of her autobiography, St Therese of Lisieux writes these words we will to well to meditate upon frequently: “One Sunday, looking at a picture of our Lord on the Cross, I was struck by the blood flowing from one of the Divine Hands. I felt a great pang of sorrow when thinking this blood was falling to the ground without anyone’s hastening to gather it up. I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive the divine dew. I understood I was then to pour it out upon souls. The cry of Jesus on the Cross sounded continually in my heart: ‘I thirst!’ These words ignited within me an unknown and very living fire. I wanted to give my Beloved to drink and I felt myself consumed with a thirst for souls. As yet, it was not the souls of priests that attracted me, but those of great sinners; I burned to snatch them from the eternal flames” (Story of a Soul).
St Therese’s insight into this mystery will give her the incentive to make of her every thought, word and deed a sacrifice to Jesus; the little things of each day she offered with great love, uniting them with the Blood of Jesus, and thus she became with Him and through Him a source of salvation for many souls who have since then imitated her Little Way, through pure love which imitates the love of God in that it is disinterested, unconditional, gratuitous and life-giving.
St Therese wanted to be a martyr and pour out her blood for Jesus, but Jesus was content with her intention and He accepted the humble and persevering offering of her entire life, her short life, as a martyrdom of love. There are many other souls, however, from whom God does accept the sacrifice of blood. Innumerable martyrs fill the pages of our martyrology every day. We know that at this very moment there are souls offering their lives in prison and in martyrdom for the name of Christ. Our thoughts go in particular to the martyred Chinese Catholics, betrayed into the hands of a godless regime by the very ones who should be protecting them. Our thoughts go to the many Christians in countries under Islamic rule and the many others in western countries given over to corrupt ideologies and a growing anti-Christian spirit which makes martyrdom in our countries no longer an impossibility.
This might be an appropriate time for us to refresh our memories about the text of the so-called Third Secret of Fatima. Sister Lucia writes: “To the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God”.
This apocalyptic scene, like all those from Holy Scripture, along with its terrifying message, contains an immense consolation, for we see that those who make their way to God are united with the passion of Christ, but that their blood, their sacrifices, their prayers, benefit all the other who follow their example.
Let us then, my dear Brothers and Friends, on this anniversary of the passing of our holy Father St Benedict, whose feast we will celebrate tomorrow, take ever more to heart those words which conclude the prologue of the Rule: “Let us share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve to be partakers also of His kingdom”. Let us renew the offering of our lives with Him. Let us love Him intensely in order to make amends for those who do not.
And may Mary Immaculate, whom we will honour this week on Thursday in the mystery of the Annunciation and on Friday as the Mother of Sorrows – those two days on which she welcomed the Incarnate God into this world, and accompanied Him as He left it – , along with St Joseph, intercede for us and share with us a bit of the insight they had into what it means to follow Christ, per crucem ad lucem, through the cross to eternal light.