Friday, June 16, 2023
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. John 19:33–34
John’s Gospel is filled with deep spiritual imagery and symbolism. It is clear that this imagery and symbolism was divinely inspired so as to give us spiritual food for reflection and meditation. One such image is given to us today as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As Jesus and the two criminals on either side of Him hung upon their crosses, the soldiers came to hasten their deaths by breaking their legs to cause them to more quickly suffocate. But when they came to Jesus, He had already died. So one of the soldiers, traditionally known as Longinus, thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, and blood and water flowed forth. Some traditions identify Longinus with the centurion who cried out after Jesus’ death, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (See Matthew 27:54.) Other traditions state that he converted at that moment, making him the first convert to Christianity. And still other traditions state that Longinus could not see well, and the blood and water from Jesus’ side poured upon his eyes, healing him. Regardless of whether these traditions are true, we know that Jesus’ side was pierced and blood and water flowed forth.
The symbolism of this act was more than a mere human symbol. It was an instrument of the profound spiritual reality that was taking place at that moment. As Jesus’ Sacred Heart was pierced, the blood and water that poured forth was the new sacramental life of the Church. The Blood was the Most Holy Eucharist and the Water was the gift of Baptism. And when Jesus had previously “breathed His last” and “handed over His Spirit,” the Sacrament of Confirmation was bestowed.
When we celebrate those Sacraments today, it is easy to see them as mere symbols of what we partake in. But in our Christian Tradition, the Sacraments are so much more. The symbol is also the reality. It is the instrument of what it symbolizes. Therefore, every time we witness a Baptism or partake in the Holy Eucharist, we are mystically present with Longinus, receiving the grace and mercy of our redemption, pouring forth from Jesus’ wounded side, so as to heal us and make us whole.
The human heart is, physically speaking, a bodily organ responsible for pumping blood throughout. But from a spiritual perspective, given that we are both body and soul, the human heart is also the source of our life. Without it, we physically and spiritually die. So it is with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was not only a physical heart that was physically pierced by the lance long ago. It is now also the source of our ongoing spiritual life, and, without Jesus’ Sacred Heart of Mercy, we will die in our sins.
Reflect, today, upon the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. See His Heart as the ongoing source of your new life in grace. Understand that His Heart is more than a symbol of His grace and mercy, it is the spiritual source and the font of that mercy. Prayerfully place yourself before His Cross, this day, and allow the blood and water, flowing from His wounded side, to cover you so that you, too, may believe.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, You poured out upon the world the love and mercy of Your transforming grace through the instrument of the blood and water pouring forth from Your wounded side. Help me to gaze upon this font of mercy and to be covered with it through the gift of the Sacraments. May I always be open to all that You wish to bestow upon me by these precious and transforming instruments of Your love. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Jesus, I trust in You.