Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Precious Blood"

Last week I filled in an hour of adoration for a friend of the family away on vacation.

It was late, and of course, I was tired, and sometimes when I'm tired I have a hard time concentrating on prayer. I picked up the hymnal. It was a good one, no Bernadette Farrell or Dolores Dufner. This chapel is at a Franciscan Friary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the friars there don't put up with any bull.

I was struck by this verse of "Precious Blood", the Italian hymn Viva, Viva Gesu, translated by Frederick William Faber, Cong. Orat. :

3. Oh, Sweetest Blood, that can implore
Pardon of God, and heav'n restore,
The heav'n which sin had lost,
While Abel's blood for vengeance pleads,
What Jesus shed still intercedes
For those who wrong him most.

No pandering, diversity praising, self-congratulations. No "Gather Us In" or "Sing a New Church" in this place.

No, we worship the God who paid the price of our sin. In paying any ransom, the cost must be something dear, something we want not to part with. Ransom has to hurt to be a ransom. But all of the universe is God's creation; by His word it exists, by His will it came to be, and if He willed it so (God forbid!), it would all cease to be. All of creation is external to God, and is not "of Him." Truly, and this is not a limit on God, but a recognition that He is necessary, and we are not, He had nothing with which to pay off a creature's debt except that which is truly His: His own Son, inseparable from and co-equal with Himself.

And in the flesh, Christ had nothing to give of Himself but the very lifeblood in his veins, which He shed willingly: "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again." (John 10:18) As Isaiah foretold of Him, "Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." (Is 53:7)

All for us! "But 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." (Is 53:5) We sometimes get the erroneous impression that the Church is a social club of good-feeling people, or a wax museum of long-dead saints. But it is a hospital for sinners. People have been scandalized by the visible sins of Christians, many understandably so. Others think their own sins too grave to be brought out into the open. But both conclusions are nonetheless wrong. The only unforgiveable sin is our own choice to reject God's forgiveness; even in mercy, God does not force Himself upon us.

Our sins caused and necessitated the nails in Christ's hands and feet. But like the hymn says, His blood does not cry out for vengeance, as Abel's blood did. Christ's blood cries out for mercy. When we resist His mercy, Christ cries out the louder to plead for our forgiveness.

The sinner who sins out of spite, knowing the gravity of his actions, throwing his defiance into the face of God, is nonetheless loved by God, though he hurts Him most. It is not our place to reject them, (although we reject the sin) but to pray and encourage their repentance and mercy.

"Oh my God, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy."

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