Precious Blood Here and Now

Everybody know that, during July, the Church reflects especially on the Precious Blood of Christ? Each month of the year has a theme for reflection. July is the month of the Precious Blood.

If I might, I would like to draw a stark contrast between two ways of understanding the world. I don’t intend to be divisive or un-ecumenical. But I think we might profit spiritually by meditating on this contrast.

First, let’s take note of this fact: human beings occupy the world in one way: locally. A human being always occupies a particular place. We may have a ‘globalized’ economy; we may have the world-wide web; we may have Facebook friends in other time zones. But no human being ever has, or ever will, exist in the world without being in a particular place. One particular town, or city, or borough, or farmhouse, or shack, or hut: one place.

tabernacleSo the contrast is this: Everyone, without exception, stands, or sits, or reclines, somewhere. Among all the billions of people, occupying all their particular locations, some of those people believe themselves to be near the Precious Blood of Christ, which brings salvation; some don’t.

And I don’t mean theoretically near, or “spiritually” near His Blood. I mean physically near, as in, “Right now, I stand approximately seven feet away from the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle.” Or: “In a few minutes, I will actually hold a chalice full of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ in my hands.”

Thinking about how close the Precious Blood of the Savior is to us humbles me, as a priest. Because, of course, we can find the Most Precious Blood of Jesus in any particular town, or city, or borough, or hamlet, because of a priest. By which I mean, we can find His Saving Blood, because Christ uses a priest to give His Blood to us, here and now. He uses priests to apply the fruits of His atoning sacrifice to us–here, now.

Humbling. But we hear in the gospel reading at Sunday Mass: He sent them out. This emerges with vivid clarity in even the most cursory reading of the conclusion of the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles: Christ never intended to extend His gift to the human race by some theoretical connection, by something purely intellectual, or by communication that could be accomplished solely via e-mail or Skype.

priest_jesus_massForgive me for being this blunt, but I think we help ourselves to understand Christ’s missionary command by thinking of this fact:

None of us were conceived in our mother’s wombs over the phone. Babies don’t get made over the phone—I don’t care how smart the phone is. In the same way, no one encounters the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God via SnapChat. We encounter His Blood in the flesh, in our churches–where we can see and smell each other, priest and people.

The Precious Blood of Jesus, shed on the cross of our salvation, flows here and now through the sacraments of the Church. All of the sacraments. We baptize in water, and the Precious Blood cleanses the soul. We confess our sins to a priest, and the Precious Blood shed on the cross washes them away. And, of course, we go to Mass week in and week out, to praise God, and He feeds us with His Body and quenches our spiritual thirst with His Blood.

The whole business has to do with there being a nearby priest and church. Yes, in some places on the globe—in rural China or Uzbekistan, for instance—getting to the closest priest and the closest church might involve some serious traveling. But that’s not the contrast I am trying to make here.

The contrast is this: every human being dwells in this world either believing that the Precious Blood of Christ is nearby—at least somewhat nearby—or not believing that. Everyone either lives in a world in which they know the Precious Blood flows to the four corners of the earth, to save souls—or they live in this world not knowing that.

Baltimore Catechism sacramentsSome people have no idea that the Blood of the human race’s Savior flows right here. Why, then, would we wonder why people have so many spiritual, moral, personal problems?

If I lived somewhere where the Precious Blood of Christ did not flow—somewhere with just roads, WalMarts, Burger Kings, or even just trees, squirrels, and black snakes rustling in the tall grass…

If there were no Precious Blood anywhere, like an existential desert, where sins could never find forgiveness, and death meant nothing but burial, worms, and the torment of everything lost, eating at me forever… If that were the world I lived in, what would I do? Too horrible to imagine!

But many people live in just such a hopeless desert, isolated completely from the Precious Blood of Christ—not because there is no church near them, but because they don’t believe. In many cases, they have never even heard of the saving Blood of the divine Lamb.

I’m not trying to make anyone uncomfortable during his or her summer vacation. But how could we possibly remain indifferent to this? The Blood shed on the cross reaches everywhere a Catholic priest says Mass and administers the other sacraments. This is the real world, where God has loved us unto death, and we can share His life together. The desert without the Blood of Christ only engulfs souls when no one loves them enough to share the faith with them.

And who is supposed to love them, if not us?

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