Blood and Water from Christ's Side giving us Life

Homily for Good Friday

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Our readings from Sacred Scripture today are beautiful descriptions of the Passion of Jesus. John the Beloved Disciple left us the Gospel account (John 18:1-19:42). He was the only apostle that went with the women to the cross on Calvary when all the other apostles fled. Even more extraordinary is the first reading from a text in the prophet Isaiah (Isa 52:13-53:12) from about six centuries before Christ. It is so accurate a prophecy of a servant’s sufferings, which we see as Jesus’ Passion, that it has been called a miracle in the Old Testament literature.

Again and again the text in Isaiah tells us of the sufferings of the servant, Christ:

So marred was his look beyond that of man,
and his appearance beyond that of mortals…
he was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom men hide their faces

The text says the servant will die.

Like a lamb led to the slaughter…
e was cut off from the land of the living

The text says the servant will be buried,

A grave was assigned him among the wicked,
And a burial place with evildoers

The text sees the resurrection of the servant, (not evident in all English translations)

He shall see the light in fullness of days.

But even more importantly the text tells us again and again why Jesus the servant suffered

Ours were the sufferings that he bore,
Our sufferings that he endured,

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

The Lord laid on him
The guilt of us all.

Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
And their guilt he shall bear

He shall take away the sins of many
And win pardon for their offenses.

Jesus fulfilled that prophecy of a suffering servant. He is the one who suffered and died for us to take away our sins and win pardon for us, so that our sins would not have the last word. Christ has the last word.

I mentioned last night that it was not enough for the Passover lamb be killed, it had to be consumed by the Jews during Passover and Jesus is our Passover lamb whom we consume in the Eucharist. John’s account of Jesus’ Passion contains some important details we do not find in Matthew, Mark or Luke. John says some things about Jesus on the cross that make us think of Jesus as our Passover lamb. Only John tells us that when Jesus was offered wine on the cross to dull his pain, the sponge was put on a hyssop stick. Hyssop was the plant used by the Jews at the first Passover to put the blood around their doors to protect them during the night when the firstborn of the Egyptians died. When the Passover lamb was killed and prepared for cooking, not one of its bones was to be broken. The soldiers broke the legs of the two crucified criminals next to Jesus to make them suffocate and die but Jesus had already died so they did not break his legs. Jesus is our Passover lamb. The blood of the first Passover lamb spared the lives of the Jews in Egypt, the blood of Jesus our Passover lamb saves us from the damnation due because of our sins. The Passover lamb had to be consumed by the Jews and Jesus our Passover lamb is consumed by us in the Eucharist.

John tells us that after Jesus died, a soldier pierced his side with a lance and blood and water flowed out (John 19:34). (see wound in the Shroud of Turin) When a person dies the right auricle of their heart fills with blood but not left side of the heart. This means the soldier pierced the heart of Jesus with his lance from the right. The unusual thing is that the evangelist makes a fuss out of the Divine Mercyblood and water flowing from Jesus’ side. He writes that an eyewitness saw this, testifies about it, and his testimony is true (John 19:35). Of course we understand that John himself is the eyewitness who saw this and wants to reassure his readers that blood and water really did pour forth from Christ’s side. But why emphasize that blood and water came from Christ’s side? Because the early Church understood the blood and water symbolizing the sacraments originating from Christ on the cross, and the blood and water especially signifying the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Not only are baptism and Eucharist represented in the blood and water from Christ but the power and grace of all the sacraments flow to us from Christ on the cross. When we receive the sacraments, we stand beneath Jesus on the cross and are washed anew by Christ and share more in his life which he gave for us. As our second reading today says, Jesus became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb 5:9). What John testifies to have personally seen, the blood and water from Christ, is the image of Divine Mercy given to Sister Faustina with which we are so familiar and reminds us that the Novena to Divine Mercy begins today. The Sacred Heart of Jesus was pierced and Jesus shed his blood that our hearts might beat with his divine life.

There is a moving story in the prologue to Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Catholicism (shortened and edited for this homily):

A mystery flu breaks out in India and kills four. Within a week you hear it has killed thirty thousand. Then it spreads to nearby countries. France makes a shocking announcement, it is closing its borders. But it is too late, it takes a week for the mystery flu to show symptoms and that night it is already in Paris. Britain also announces it is closing its borders but again too late, it also has the flu. The President of the United States announces that all flights to and from the United States are cancelled. Alas, four days later, the disease breaks out in New York. Then there is an amazing announcement, they have broken the code of the flu and can make a vaccine from someone who is not infected. People are asked to go to their local hospital to have their blood tested to see if it would be suitable to produce the vaccine. You go and wait outside afterwards to hear the result. The staff come out screaming a name. Your son says they are calling his name. They say he has the right blood. You have to sign the consent form for your son but the box for the number of pints of blood to be taken is empty. “How many?” you ask. “We need it all” they said. “We had no idea it would be a child.” “He’s my only son” you say. The doctor grabs you and says the whole world needs this. They give you a moment before they start. The following Sunday they hold a ceremony to honor your son for his enormous contribution to humanity. Some don’t bother to come because they think they have better things to do, some sleep through it, some come and say it’s boring. (Shortened and edited for this homily)

God our Father gave his Son for us that we might have life after the virus of sin. Where is everybody on Sunday? Our second reading today says Jesus became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb 5:9), and every Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection giving us life after the virus of sin.

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2015

This homily was delivered in a parish in Pennsylvania.

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