I received from the Lord what I also handed unto you. The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in memory of me.” Words taken from today’s lesson.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
At 7pm, on the evening of August 18th, 1996, an Argentinian priest was offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at a Catholic Church in Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded, sacred host at the back of the church. I’m going to the spot indicated, the priest saw the defiled, sacred host. And since he was unable to consume the sacred host, he placed it in a container of water and put it away into the tabernacle. Eight days later, upon opening that tabernacle, the priests saw to his amazement of the sacred host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who gave instructions that the sacred host be photographed. The photos were taken on September 6th, and they clearly show that the host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years, the sacred host remained in that tabernacle, and the whole affair was kept strictly secret. Since the sacred host suffered no visible decomposition, Cardinal Bergoglio decided to have it scientifically analyzed. In October of 1999, a sample of that bloody fragment was brought to New York for analysis. Forensic scientific experts who did not know the origin of the specimen, analyze the substance and determined that it was real flesh and blood containing human DNA. Officially, the report read quote, “The analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves.” A heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition, and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates the heart was alive at the time that the sample was taken. The report then continues, “What is even more, white blood cells had penetrated the very tissue, which further indicated that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.” The forensic team of scientists were then told that the origin the source of the sample had first been kept in ordinary water for a month, and then for another three years in a container of distilled water. Only then had the sample been taken for analysis.
Furthermore, they were told that the specimen they examined was literally a sacred host consecrated at the mass. And amazed by this information, one doctor stated, “How and why a consecrated host could change its character and become living human flesh and blood will remain an inexplicable mystery to science, a mystery totally beyond her competence.” As part of the investigation of this wondrous Eucharistic miracle, the scientists found that the blood type in the sacred elements was AB, most likely AB positive. And what is more interesting is that all those wondrous blood relics and Eucharistic miracles of the past that have been tested, always show an AB blood type. The famous corporal of Bolsena, that wondrous 13th century Eucharistic miracle. That blood tested as AB. The shroud of Turin, the Sudarium, the very napkin that encased our Lord’s face, as well as the Eucharistic miracle at Lanciano, were all AB. The AB blood type, whether positive or negative, is one of the rarest of all human blood types, with only approximately three and a half percent of the world population having AB positive and less than 1% of the population in the world with an AB negative. The AB blood type is unique for its universal receptivity, meaning that people who have AB blood can receive blood from anyone, and are therefore known as universal recipients. Unlike all other blood types, which can only receive from other specific blood types.
The message is clear. Our dearest Lord shed His most precious blood for all, and that He can receive anyone into His Mystical Body. The most precious blood of the Lamb of God will once again come down upon this altar in just a little while. The price of our salvation, the ransom paid to the divine justice will flow once more again, representing the one and only sacrifice of Calvary and renewing the mass of the Last Supper. The very red carpet in our sanctuary acts like a sign, a sign of that most precious blood of Christ cascading like a waterfall down from this altar into every corner of this church in every corner of the entire world and universe. The blood of the Savior colors this whole world in such a way that the Heavenly Father cannot look down upon us here below without seeing the blood of his son. Like a waterfall, the blood of Christ flows down to our confessionals in the back of the church. And it signs the very doorways of that confessional with the blood of a lamb. The power of that blood is applied to the repentant sinner. And the avenging Angel passes over, thus saving the penitent from eternal death.
During this Holy Triduum, we realize that the most precious blood of Jesus was poured forth in abundance beginning with that bloody sweat in the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Consider all the blood spilled from Christ’s sacred arteries and veins from the scourging, the beatings, and the bloody walk along the Via Dolorosa towards Mount Calvary, all the way to that bloody crucifixion. The precious blood was everywhere. It was in the cords of the scourges. It’s soaked his matted hair with the crowning of thorns. It seeped its way into the very cross that he carried, and eventually hung upon. It found its way onto people’s hands, their very feet, and their sandals. A chosen few treated these streams and droplets of blood as most precious relics, which they worshiped, but most had no clue as to what they were trampling on. And yet Christ poured out every last drop of blood. He held nothing back. He was not sparing in his blood. He wished that that saving stream of his blood might irrigate at least some chosen souls, even if most would distain it. You know that one tear flowing from one of the sacred eyes of the Divine infant in Bethlehem could have saved countless universes. Just one drop of blood flowing from the circumcised Christ Child could have redeemed an infinite number of worlds. And yet Christ poured out his life in blood for human sin.
In reading the holy Gospels, we realize that every one of the words spoken by our Lord was perfectly chosen. No word of His was wasted. He was not a blabbermouth person. He wasn’t a gossip, he wasn’t into small talk. Again, he wasted no words. Every action he performed was perfectly done. He wasted no movement, He wasted no time. He performed many miracles, no doubt, but he could have performed more of them. There were some cripples, some blind men, some lepers, perhaps who were not cured. He was always careful in everything He did, always looking for the greater glory of His Heavenly Father. And yet, when it came to shedding His most precious blood, one could say that He was wasteful. He spilled it everywhere. And one way He was like a prodigal son seemingly wasting all of this precious treasure. Not with wine, women, and song of course, but spilling that treasured blood out upon real prodigal sons. Sprinkling that blood upon the very men that were crucifying him, and upon those Jewish high priests, whom he knew, would never respond to His love and mercy. In the eyes of the world, such prodigality was utterly wasteful. But not for the Son of God and Son of Mary, not for that sower of blood who would pass the drops, the seeds of his blood, even beyond the field, even to the rocky soil, and even to the soil infested with weeds and thorns. It went everywhere. If our dearest Lord had made Jerusalem or Rome the sole depository of the saving effects of His most precious blood, if we could only come to those wondrous cities to receive the fruits of that redeeming blood, that would have been merciful beyond telling. But knowing all things, our dearest Lord did not want to limit the location of that blood. That saving blood is everywhere being poured out in abundance in every corner of the universe, all over the world in every parish, in prisons, nursing homes, hospitals and convents. No place goes uncovered.
And yet with this availability, with this easy access, we can grow overly complacent. Familiarity can even breed contempt, as they say. We have wasted this blood in our own lives. Some have trampled it. Some priests have poured the blood down the sewer pipe of their throats while in the state of mortal sin. Some have grown indifferent to the power and presence of this blood. Instead of being inebriated with the blood of Christ, we become drunk with the spirit of the world. We appreciate gems and red rubies more than those precious droplets. Consider these words written by the venerable Mary of Agreda. In her masterpiece, known as the “Mystical City of God.” This holy woman writes, “Souls accustomed to the blessings of God either through their office as the priests and religious or by the exercise of virtues and the abundance of divine favors, as spiritual minded persons usually aggravate their sins by a certain contempt of those very blessings and a certain abuse of the Divine things.” She then continues, “For by the abundance of the Divine favors, they fall into a dangerous dullness of mind. They begin to think little of the Divine favors and they become irreverent.” The mystic Venerable Mary of Agreda then concludes, “This is an evident danger for Lukewarm priests, who frequent the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments without fear and reverence. Also for the learned, the wise, and the powerful of this world, who so reluctantly correct and amend their lives, they have lost the appreciation and veneration of the curing helps of the Church, namely the sacraments.” To paraphrase the Venerable Mary of Agreda, we have abused the blood of Christ. We have wasted it and its effects.
As a final note, we are dealing with the difficulties connected with the Coronavirus. Some are suffering greatly, even dying. Many at a great sacrifice are serving those who suffer. And most all of us are limited in our movements and choices as we are largely at or near whole. But in practicing this so-called “social distancing,” we have woken up to the fact that the blood of Christ now seems more distant from us. As access to the sacraments becomes more difficult for many, the single most important days of liturgical year, the bloodiest days, if you will, are closed off to many who could only see the liturgies via livestreaming. The ordinary doors to that flow of blood are being closed up more and more. This is what our human eyes observe. One good priest described our situation is almost like being under an interdict. A divine interdict, a certain way that certain rituals and sacraments become largely unavailable or only had with greater difficulty. But I would want to also add that we are seeing something akin to a divine, delayed, or deferred absolution. In some dioceses in our very country, regularly scheduled confessions are off limits. Regular access to the blood of Christ applied in the confessional is in some places even unavailable.
And sad to say, and I say this with great shame. In some cases it seems that even those dying from the coronavirus are leaving this world without the ordinary access to the effects of Christ’s most precious blood in the Last Rites, as some priests are either unwilling or forbidden from seeing such patients. With this in mind, I beg all of you to seek the help of priests as soon as the symptoms of this virus begin to manifest themselves. Call for a priest before an emergency trip to the hospital. Beg to see a priest before being fully admitted to an isolated existence to receive absolution, Extreme Unction and the Apostolic Pardon. Many bishops and priests will have to answer for this negligence. But then again, all of us will have to answer. All of us will have to answer for the abuse of the blood. The abuse of the most precious blood of Christ. You know, in centuries past, Holy Thursday marked a special moment when three Masses were offered. One, of course, was the Mass of the Last Supper. The other was the Mass in which the holy oils were blessed. But then there was another Mass. A Mass in which public penitents were received back into the arms of the Church after their heavy Lenten penances. Holy Thursday was the time of absolution. It was the time of reconciling sinners in a special way. The lay folk are properly upset. This Lenten time of penance followed by reconciliation has become so difficult. People in various traditional websites have resorted to bashing bishops for the decisions that they have made regarding regular confessions being unavailable. How could they not provide easy access to the confessional during this crisis? We need more confession hours. What if a person were in mortal sin? Should he have to wait for days, even weeks to have access to the saving blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Penance? And these people do make an important point. But in all this complaining, I have not heard a single person suggest that all of us priests religious and laity alike simply stay out of mortal sin. We are in a crisis here. So wake up. Some are getting drunk on this weekend. Better think about it twice. Some acting in promiscuous fashion, some watching impure things, some who practice rash judgment.
Some are doing other things; harsh detraction, calamy, stop this. Stop missing Mass on Sundays. Because the ordinary channels of the sacraments are seemingly closing up with it. As I mentioned earlier, it’s as if we’re under not only a divine interdict due to our sins, but even a divine delay of absolution. Deferring or delaying absolution can be employed by a confessor for someone who is a recidivist, that is someone who frequently falls into the same sin after repeated confession without making any effort to avoid the sin. Delay or deferment could also be used for one who might be in a willful voluntary, near occasion of sin. One may have for example, an issue with multiple viewings of impure material on the internet, or even something approaching an addiction. The confessor for the good of the penitent suggests that absolution should be delayed until the penitent is better disposed and more open to receive absolution. The priest properly would ask that a content barrier be put on the computer or on an app, or an electronic device that would largely and hopefully cut off such websites which lead to so much sin. Most penitents rejoice in this decision, as they are well-disposed and they quickly use the remedies provided. But others will grow angry and inevitably will ask the priests, “Well father, what if I were to die tonight, without having received absolution from you?” In regards to this, two things should be kept in mind. First, the good Lord is moving us to give up sin by employing prayer, penance and many strategies to gain a certain self-mastery. And God would not frustrate this work of conversion from occurring. And secondly, perhaps the penitent should have thought about this matter of dying in a state of mortal sin before he made the choice to view this impure material. The priest is not responsible for that horrible decision. Rather, the priest is responsible to protect the confessional from sacrilegious treatment of the blood of Christ and bringing the penitent to true repentance and conversion.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the very patron of moral theology, once wrote the following “When the Confessor knows that it will be useful to defer or delay absolution, he is bound to defer it, for he is obliged to adopt the most efficacious remedies for the amendment of his penitent.” St. Leonard of Port Maurice, the great patron of parish mission preachers, added, “There would not be such great ease and sitting today if there were not also such a great ease in absolving.”
Our blessed Lord shed His most precious blood in abundance. To the eyes of the worldly, he seemed even wasteful in the spilling of that blood. And he would spill his blood all over again, for each and every one of us. But there comes a time when we are so wasteful of that blood, that the good Lord may defer or delay its powerful application until we are more properly disposed and open to that blood. This may be one of those times.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.