Fr. Charles Irvin
Diocese of Lansing
Blood is life-giving; it is the essential element in sustaining us in life. Babies the womb receive oxygen and nutrients from their mothers’ blood. When natural disasters occur the Red Cross appeals for blood donors. During surgeries it sustains patients in life. In many cultures the bonding of people is sealed in rituals that mingle blood. In all cultures blood has a deeply religious significance.
When God brought the Hebrew people out of their slavery in Egypt, the blood of sacrificed lambs marked their homes and they were spared the punishment that fell upon their Egyptian captors. Later, on Mt. Sinai, when God bound Himself to His people, Moses offered animal sacrifices and then took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” Moses then took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:6-8)
As we enter now into Holy Week, blood and the cup of suffering are the centerpiece of God’s saving and life-giving actions. In the blood of Christ which flowed from His crucified body we are liberated from the ultimate consequences of our sins if we follow in the way of Peter and not in the way of Judas. God offers, we respond, and everything depends upon our response.
The importance for us of St. Matthew’s account of Our Blessed Lord’s passion, suffering, and death cannot be overstated. Today and this week our Church takes us to the core of God’s forgiving and self-emptying love for us. At the Last Supper as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
How will we respond to Him? Can we and will we accept God’s forgiveness? Judas did not. Peter at first could not but later he did. Pontius Pilate tried to wash his hands of it, denying responsibility. The Jewish leaders accepted responsibility. “His death is upon us and upon our children,” they declared. Many people in Jerusalem at that time simply didn’t care; they couldn’t be bothered. What about us?
When we drink of the cup, the cup of suffering, we have our own opportunity to drink of God’s life-giving force that empowers us to face this world’s unfairness and injustices. The harsh truth is that millions of innocent people suffer. The harsh truth is that Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, was innocent and unjustly suffered terrible rejection and pain. Instead of allowing himself to be imprisoned in resentment and hatred, he walked the path leading to redemption and resurrection.
What about us; do we enter into the passion and death of Christ? Or do we simply not care and not be bothered? God offers; what is your choice?