byMost Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
July, which is now half spent, is the month of the Precious Blood. The Precious Blood of Christ is a powerful reminder of the depth of God’s love for us. God not only sent His Son into the world out of love, but His Son literally shed His Blood on the Cross to seal that love in a covenant with us. So real is God’s love for us that Christ pours out His Blood in the Sacrifice of the Mass where He truly becomes present to us as our sustenance in this passing life.
There is a beautiful prayer with which many of us are very familiar from our earliest days. It is the Anima Christi and is used as thanksgiving after Mass. It is a very simple prayer, but one that goes to the heart of the real intimacy with God that the humanity of Christ, wounded by the Cross, offers to us. This intimacy, experienced in the Blood of Christ, is most present during the celebration of Mass. The prayer dates back to the fourteenth century and was used by and frequently referred to by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, thus giving it the title, The Aspirations of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The following is the beautiful translation of the prayer by Saint John Newman:
Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesus, listen to me;
In Thy wounds I fain would hide;
Ne’er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end.
The Precious Blood of Christ reminds us of the humanity of the Lord who shed His Blood so we might be united to Him. The Precious Blood of Christ reminds us of the dignity that we possess which not even sin can take from us. Saint Peter tells us that we were redeemed from the futile conduct of Adam and Eve, “not with perishable things like silver and gold but with the Precious Blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb” (1Peter 1:18-19). Through His Precious Blood, the Lord sealed a covenant with us which is most fully realized in the Church and celebrated in the Mass.
A covenant is a two-way relationship that people enter which is irrevocable. Our society does not understand the meaning of covenant as it experiences little of it. We are a society more familiar with a contract and we tend to be a litigious one. A contract is not a relationship but an agreement. In this agreement, both parties set up the conditions by which the contract will be binding. If one of the conditions is not followed, the contract can be broken, and a legal remedy can be sought to obtain even more than what was agreed to in the contract. A covenant has no conditions attached to it and joins the partners, not in an agreement, but in a living relationship. Marriage is one of the best examples of a covenant. Unfortunately, we are all too aware of how our society views marriage, more as a contract than a covenant.
God has entered into a covenant with us which is sealed by His Son’s Blood. While that covenant is of God’s free initiative, it is still a relationship between God and us. We, too often, can tend to treat that covenant as a contract and many times try to break with it. We can be unfaithful to God, unresponsive to His love, and sometimes just plain hurtful to Him. However, God never breaks His covenant with us. No matter what we do, God will not only remain faithful to us, but also loving and forgiving. While some members of the Church may show themselves unfaithful toward that covenant, God will never abandon it. He has chosen to remain with the Church and to use it, with all of its human weaknesses, as the extension of Himself in time and space. Through this Church, God sanctifies us, teaches us, loves us, saves us, is present to us, and invites us to enter into a real relationship with Him. The Church belongs to God and He will always be with it.
The sign of God’s faithfulness to the covenant He has established with us was His giving that which is closest to Him, His own Son. Christ became one of us and sacrificed His life so that we might have life. Not only did Christ give His life, but He also promised to continue to give His life to us in the Eucharist through which He would remain with us in the Church. At the Last Supper, Christ established the covenant using His words with which we are so familiar in the Consecration of the Mass, “Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the Chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.” By His own words, Christ gave us the Church to which He would be faithful no matter what. His Precious Blood seals His covenant with us.
During this month of the Precious Blood, let us reflect on the words of Saint Peter that we are redeemed, not by perishable things like silver and gold, but by the Precious Blood of Christ. Especially at this time, may the Mass deepen the intimate union we have with God through His Son’s Precious Blood. May we know that God is ever faithful to us through His Church sealed with the Blood of Christ and celebrated in the Eucharist.
“Blood of Christ, fill all my veins!”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
July 16, 2021