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BLOOD AND WATER

Homily for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 7 June 2024, Jn 19,31-37

I call the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus a poetic feast about the mystery of the Love of Christ. Saint Paul himself sounds very poetic in our second reading from third chapter of his letter to the Ephesian as he speaks about the love of Christ. The final sentence in this reading is probably the longest sentence that he has ever written in all his writings. You will have to know when to breathe when you read this sentence. He says,

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the knowledge of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Whew! That’s five verses in one sentence! And take note of that line about “the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ”, and the “knowledge that surpasses all knowledge”!
He is talking about the inscrutable riches, the abundance of grace that flows for the whole world from the heart of Christ, through his kenosis, his self-emptying act of oblation on the cross. Those of you who are familiar with the Three o’clock prayer to the Divine Mercy would be familiar with that line in the prayer about “the source of life flowing out for souls and an ocean of mercy opening up for the whole world.” The inspiration obviously comes from the Gospel for this feast day, from that scene in the St. John’s passion narrative about a soldier piercing the side of Jesus. The evangelist says, “immediately, blood and water flowed out.” The three o’clock prayer is addressed poetically to that wounded side of Jesus as the “fountain of life”, the “unfathomable Divine mercy”. With a little imagination, Saint Faustina Kowalska, who composed that prayer, gets more specific about the real source from which that “fountain of life” had poured out—the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And so the prayer says, “O blood and water which flowed out from the heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy, I trust in you.”

Water and blood, these two substances that flowed from the heart of Jesus are identified by the early Church Fathers as the graces of Baptism and Eucharist, respectively. First, WATER: symbolic of the grace of baptism by which we receive the Holy Spirit and are awakened to who we are in relation to one another: brothers and sisters, members of the one body of Christ, which is the Church. Secondly, BLOOD, symbolic of the grace of the Eucharist, by which we become part of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood. You would remember that at the feast of Corpus Christi, I mentioned that we miss out so much if we focus only on the CORPUS CHRISTI and forget about the SANGUINIS CHRISTI—the blood of the new and eternal covenant poured out so that sins may be forgiven, and so that the reign of God might come about, so that united with Christ in whom divinity and humanity have become one blood, the whole world might become one family.

This feast is about the God who reveals himself to us in Christ, as a SUFFERING GOD, PRECISELY BECAUSE HIS NATURE IS LOVE. For how can anyone truly love without being ready to suffer and die? The fire that burns in his heart is a different kind of pain—it is the pain of compassion, a pain that heals, a suffering that transforms, a death that gives life.

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