The month of July is traditionally associated with the Blood of Christ. This feast powerfully reminds us of Christ’s humanity.
The Precious Blood of Jesus’ tradition within the Catholic world goes back to roughly one hundred and seventy years ago. Its context is the First Italian War for Independence, precisely in 1849, when Pope Blessed Pius IX went into exile in Gaeta. As he was staying in this city Divine Providence had it that he met Don Giovanni Merlini, who was the third superior general of the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood. As the war raged on Don Merlini advised the Pope to establish a universal feast in honour of the Precious Blood so that the war, through God’s help, would come to an end and peace could finally reign in Rome, the Eternal City. Blessed Pius IX heeded to Don Merlini’s request and on June 30 1849 issued a statement revealing his intention of instituiting the Precious Blood feast. As a result, the war was soon finished and the Holy Father could return safely to Rome. On August 10 Blessed Pius IX officially proclaimed that the 1st Sunday in July would be specifically dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ’s Feast. In time, Pope Saint Pius X chose July 1 as the proper day for this celebration.
After the Second Vatican Council the feast was sadly removed from the liturgical calendar, however we still could find a votive Mass in honour of the Precious Blood which could be celebrated within the month of July as well as in several months of the year. This is how the tradition of dedicating the whole month of July to the Precious Blood of Jesus came about.
How truly profound is the theology behind the Precious Blood of Jesus’ devotion! What a great thing to even just think and, let alone, meditate that extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross as well as the shedding out of his blood for us, sinful humanity! The New Testament alone greatly acknowledges the cardinal importance of the Blood of Christ in our salvation history. Within the biblical text we find some 75 quotations which mention the Precious Blood of Jesus. In his first letter Saint Peter identifies the great cost of our salvation when he writes: You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pt 1:18-19). In simple words, we were not saved by a big sum of money but by a life, fully human and divine, that was infinitely and generously offered to the Father for our salvation!
Since Christ saved us through His Precious Blood, then faith in His Blood earns us redemption. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul, the great theologian of the Precious Blood, went on to say:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:21-26).
If the Precious Blood is intimately connected with Christ’s divinity then Christ’s Blood is the rubber stamp that He is our true Saviour. The letter to the Ephesians tells us: In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us (Eph 1:7-8). And what richness of grace could be better than the institution of the New Covenant which is grounded in Jesus’ Precious Blood? That is why the letter to the Hebrews says:
He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant (Heb 9:12-15).
But, as the Book of Revelation rightly points out that He love[d] us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (Rev 1:5), will Christ’s salvation leave us idle? Without doing anything at all? Simply because we are saved? Already the first letter of John teaches us that if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn 1:7). It is interesting to notice that just in the second chapter of the same letter Saint John shows us that walking in the light means loving the brother and the sister. He says: Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 John 2:8-11).
In his address to the participants in a meeting promoted by the families of the Most Precious Blood on Saturday 30 June 2018, Pope Francis demonstrates how the Precious Blood of Jesus becomes the catalyst for the Christian to go out of his comfort zone and spill his blood, meaning spending his life, for others in generous service. He mentioned three aspects that can help the Christian to be a living witness of that “superabundance of love” which is “expressed in the Blood of the Lord,” mainly “the courage of the truth, attention to all, especially to the most distant, and the ability to fascinate and to communicate”.
First, “the courage of the truth. It is important to be brave people, build courageous communities that are not afraid to stand up to affirm the values of the Gospel and the truth about the world and man. It is a matter of speaking plainly and not turning away in the face of attacks on the value of human life from conception to its natural end, on the dignity of the human person; before social ills, and before the various forms of poverty. The witness of the disciples of Jesus is called to touch the lives of the parishes and neighbourhoods, not to leave indifferent but to affect, transforming people’s hearts and lives.
The second aspect is attention to all, especially to those who are distant. In your mission you are called to reach out to everyone, to make yourselves understand by all, to be ‘popular’ by using a language through which everyone can understand the message of the Gospel. The recipients of the love and goodness of Jesus are all: neighbours, but above all those who are most distant. Therefore, we need to identify the most suitable ways of being able to bring together a multiplicity of people in homes, in social environments and on the street. To do this, you have before you the example of Jesus and of the disciples who walked the streets of Palestine announcing the Kingdom of God with the many signs of healing that confirmed the Word. Strive to be an image of a Church who walks the street, among the people, even running personal risks, sharing the joys and hardships of those you meet.
The third aspect that I suggest for your witness is the ability to fascinate and communicate. This is aimed especially at preaching and catechesis, the itineraries for a deeper understanding of the Word of God. It is a question of inspiring ever greater involvement in order to offer the contents of the Christian faith and to allow it to be savoured, encouraging new life in Christ. The Gospel and the Holy Spirit evoke words and gestures that enflame hearts and help them to open up to God and to others.”
Blood of Jesus make me a kind and staunch defender of your truth, a humble servant who meets you in every person especially the needy ones together with a generous sharer of your message to the seekers and the unchurched. Amen.