Preached April 19, 2019; St. Peter Catholic Church, The Dalles, Oregon
The Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, stood at the foot of the Cross, she watched her Son die, she watched the soldier pierce his side with a lance – and her out heart was pierced – she watched the Blood and Water flow from his open heart.
On Palm Sunday I spoke about the meaning of the tearing of the veil of the temple at the hour of Jesus’ death. In summary, I said that the rending of the veil of the Temple meant that by his death on the Cross, through which he cleansed our consciences from dead works to serve the living God, (cf. Heb 9:14) Jesus introduced us to worship in Spirit and Truth. Jesus’ worship of his Father on the Cross is the worship in Spirit and Truth that makes it possible for us to offer worship in Spirit and Truth, through him, with him, and in him.
Today we heard St. John’s account of Jesus’ suffering and death, but unlike the other evangelists he makes no mention of the veil of the Temple. He does, however, give us another detail that the other evangelists omit. He tells us about the soldier who came shortly after Jesus’ death pierced Jesus’ side with a lance, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
Like the rending of the veil of the Temple, this is a detail that is full of meaning, and the meaning is largely the same.
Indeed, Jesus once said, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up, referring to the Temple of his own Body. (Jn 2:19)
The Letter to the Hebrews also makes a connection between Jesus’ flesh and the veil. It is written: Through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is his flesh. (Heb 10:19-20)
The veil of Jesus flesh is opened by the soldier with the lance; through the open side of Jesus the worship given to God by the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ crucified is revealed for us. Once again that is the worship in Spirit and Truth. Through faith we can follow the eyes of Mary and John, who stood at the foot of the Cross, and witnessed this event, and enter into the Sacred Heart of Jesus and be united to his worship in Spirit and Truth.
That interior worship given by the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the hidden reality contained in the sacraments and the visible reality of the sacraments comes to us by the same path by which we enter the Heart of Jesus, his open side on the Cross. The Blood and Water from his side are signs of the precious gift of salvation that he gives us through his death on the Cross, a gift that comes from the love of his Heart. The Blood is a sign of the same Blood offered on the altar in the Holy Eucharist; the water is a sign of the water of baptism that gives us the new life of grace.
The water cleanses us and gives us new life so that we can take part in the worship in Spirit and Truth; we actually take part in that worship when we take part in offering the Blood of Christ, the sacrifice of our salvation, and we offer ourselves through him, with him, and in him.
All this is a gift of the Heart of Jesus Christ crucified.