Yesterday, we celebrated the Passion of the Lord. The homily is below. I encourage you to find 15 minutes of quiet today to reflect on the gracious death of Christ, in preparation for our sharing in his resurrection.
Do you understand the power of Christ’s blood?“When the soldiers saw that Jesus was already dead …. one of the soldiers thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” (Jn. 19:33-34) Do you understand the power of the blood and water flowing from Christ?
We do not merely remember an historical event today. Rather than historical memory, this is a sacred memory. In a sacred memory God continues to be present with the very same power. Christ is present to us just like the day he died on the cross. We stand with Mary and the beloved disciple at the cross. Today we enter into the event of the cross. We not only recall how blood and water flowed from his side, but also the blood and water continues to flow out for us.
Do you understand the power of the blood and water flowing from Christ? The Church was born from the blood and water flowing from Christ. These are symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist. If the water symbolizes the baptismal water, then Christ’s death is the birth of the Church. St. John Chrysostom said that just as God fashioned Eve from the side of Adam, so the Church was born from the side of Christ.
Let’s remember what this birth looked like. Who was born from the side of Christ? It happened with weak and sinful disciples. Peter denied him three times. He was one of the stronger disciples! Most of the others were not even brave enough to deny him. Peter and one other disciple followed Jesus after his arrest. Because they followed him to the courtyard, Peter was questioned about being a disciple. So the disciples were virtually all unfaithful to Jesus. Not just Peter and Judas.
The Church was born with weak unworthy disciples. So what did these disciples look like after Jesus’ death? First of all, they were humbled by his faithful love. Even though they were so unfaithful, he stayed true to them. Jesus’ faithful love was shown in the beauty of his suffering. The prophet Isaiah captures the beauty of suffering love, the amazing love of one who suffers for others, and who stays true to his mission when everyone else goes astray.
“He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Is. 53:5-6)
The beauty of suffering love pierced the disciples’ hearts. It humbled them. They were bowled over by mercy. He was a faithful strong suffering servant. As a result, they were inspired to be servants like him.
Do you understand the power of the blood and water flowing from Christ? Do you see what it did for the first disciples? What should our Church look like today as it is re-born from the blood and the water flowing from Christ?
Over the last year, we have seen that the Church’s leaders have been weak and sinful. Yet, Christ still goes to the cross for us. His death is still stronger than all of our horrible sins. The blood and water flowing fromChrist is the greatest force in the universe. So we can be re-born.
What does that re-born Church look like? It has humble leaders. Like the first disciples, we are humbled by Jesus’ faithful love. Even though we have been so unfaithful, he still offers us his merciful love.
Humble leaders do not have fancy titles, like ‘Your Excellency.’ In fact, titles like that should be banned. In a Church that is re-born, clericalism is crushed. Priests are no longer put on a pedestal, but they are suffering servants. We humbly stare upon the crucified Christ and seek to imitate him who “was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; we had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.”
Second, in a Church re-born, those who were harmed are restored. They experience their own re-birth. They are restored as we listen to their stories and tell them, “I believe you.” They are restored as we acknowledge their injuries and help them with counseling. Mostly, they are restored by the blood and water flowing from Christ. It is more powerful than sin, sickness, evil and death. Only Christ can give birth to his Church, only Christ can bring those harmed to re-birth.
Finally, the re-born Church is bold in prayer. That may sound odd. How can the Church be humble and bold? The reading from Hebrews describes this boldness. It says, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16)
The word for coming before God with “boldness” is parresia; it has a sense of being confident, fearless or to speak openly. This Greek word means literally “to speak every word.” You know when someone has had a powerful experience of healing or a life-changing event and you cannot shut them up. That is the sense. They speak every word. They don’t care what anybody else thinks.
After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples spoke fearlessly or with boldness. You couldn’t shut them up. They didn’t care what anybody else thought. They prayed with boldness because they were stunned by his love on the cross and by the power of his resurrection. As it says in Heb. 10:19, “Through the blood of Jesus, we enter the sanctuary with boldness.”
blood poured out on the cross washes over us with perfect mercy. We can approach God with confidence because
we know that he so graciously died for our sins. “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may
receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16)